varenna activewear
varenna activewear

Finding inspiration in Lake Como: The woman behind Italy’s hottest new activewear brand

15 Apr 2021 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Hannah Lemon

Picturesque views, nature in abundance, and dreamy villas, Lake Como has it all. Arantxa Gandini, creative director and co-founder of Varenna tells us why this destination never fails to inspire.

Sponsored by:


How much would we all like to disappear on an Italian sojourn right now? Imagine lying next to Lake Como listening to the gentle breeze whispering through the trees and a cocktail in hand. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, it seems like that’s not going to be happening any time soon, but luckily, Arantxa Gandini is bringing Lake Como to us.

Gandini is the creative director and co-founder of new sophisticated luxury sportswear brand Varenna. Using the finest recycled fibres, Varenna offers up a new vision for activewear, mixing stylish designs with peak performance – and it’s all inspired by Gandini’s love for North Italy. She tells us what it’s been like to launch a business during a pandemic, where to find the best villas in Lombardy and how to shop sustainably.

Where do you hail from?

I’m half-Italian, half-Spanish. As an Italian, family is really important to me. I have two wonderful sons, a beautiful daughter, and an adorable husband. My mother was from the north of Italy, and I’ve spent all my summer holidays there. The area is a constant source of inspiration.

Have both sport and fashion always been part of your life?

I’ve been passionate about both fitness and fashion since I was little. I spent 25 years working for Prada and normally work out at least five days per week. My life changed when I discovered Pilates a few years ago! Valentina Panfilio, an expert in yoga and meditation, has also opened up a new world to me.

I recently had to undergo surgery for a serious problem with my neck and for the past few months I’ve not been able to work out. It really makes you appreciate how important health is. For anyone who’s not quite found the motivation – really go for it. It will change your life!

How did you come to create Varenna?

My brother and I get on really well. He also works in fashion, and spent five years at the Spanish clothing company Inditex. One day I mentioned to him that there wasn’t a brand offering sophisticated, fashion-led activewear garments that were also designed for performance. It was funny, because he’d also noticed this. So we came up with the idea of creating our own brand. He is Varenna’s CEO and works with me alongside our partner and co-founder Olivier Lepoutre – we have a great synergy as a team.

My role is to set the product vision. One advantage of having worked so closely with customers in Prada stores for so many years it that you learn exactly what they will appreciate!

What are your favourite items in your wardrobe?

I go crazy about my collection of jeans and shoes! They’re my favourite pieces. When I find something I love, I find it hard to refrain from buying it. My favourite look is a pair of jeans and a blazer combined with great shoes, like a pair of Prada Decolté.

Much of your inspiration comes from Lake Como, why is that?

I think it is the most beautiful place in the world! It combines the elegance of the surrounding villas with the most amazing nature; the walk from Brunate to Montepiatto is absolutely wonderful. At the same time, you can take in the centuries-old traditions of silk production on the streets of Como.

We decided to name the brand Varenna because it’s one of the most charming, but lesser known, corners of the lake. If you’re going there, stay at Villa Cipressi. It’s one of the best experiences in life.

Has it been difficult launching a brand in the current climate?

It has been really tough. All our suppliers are from the north of Italy and Covid delayed production processes for every brand. As a newcomer, we were at the end of the queue. On top of that, suppliers closed their businesses for the whole of August as they’d been busy making masks. As a result, we missed the SS21 wholesale campaign.

It’s also been difficult getting in front of buyers at department stores as they’ve not been visiting fairs and they’ve had restrictions on introducing new brands. However, we’ve managed to sign up with amazing retailers, like Hudson Bay, and have some really exciting launches coming up in the US and Europe. We’re also delighted to launch our SS21 collection online.

How do you ensure that sustainability is more than just a buzzword?

More and more people are concerned about the planet and doing something to protect it, but it’s down to brands like us to make that change happen. We produce 100% of our garments with recycled fibres and we’ve actively encouraged fabric suppliers to produce more recycled fibres.

It’s a titanic effort, especially for a little brand like ours. We have even come up with a block chain called ‘TrustPlace’. It’s a digital certificate that shows the quality and story behind each garment. It helps customers know that what they’re getting is real and unique.

What exciting things are on the horizon for Varenna?

The whole team is really looking forward to our flagship opening in Milan, and hopefully London soon! My dream is to see Varenna in a corner of Harrods, Selfridges, and other amazing British retailers, so all those women can, just like me, add a delicate touch of fashion to their activewear style.