WOMEN IN FASHION
MARIAPIA MALERBA, Cape Coral mariapiamalerba.com A former corporate designer, she’s thrown herself into fiber art, creating couture that, if not practical for everyday use, makes daring presentations on stage. “Life of an artist can be very tough,” she adds. “You must concentrate 100 percent.” LISSA SCHUESSLER, Naples love-724.com Skirts, tops and dresses can be dressed up or down. “You can wear it on the beach and then out to dinner with crystal heels,” Schuessler says. Versatility and durability is the name of 724’s game. Donned by 19-to-22-year-old models in Miami fashion shows, the garments’ most ardent followers are women ages 55 to 60. GWENDOLYN GLEASON, Naples Facebook, 413-374-1787 Most of her commissions these days are by referral, but there’s an emerging aspect to her work. Gleason’s creations employ organic, sustainable fabrics that breathe in the Florida heat. She’s expanding her brand by making more casual attire, such as “beach cover-ups, wraps and tunics made from beautiful cottons and linens from India.” LIA MARTINO, Fort Myers liamartino.com At 16, Martino was a Chanel model, launched into the international world of fashion. Martino started designing for Chico’s and caught the attention of then-CEO Cinny Murray, who championed her art and continues to be a best friend and mentor. Now she’s ready to partner in launching her own line, tentatively called Lia. “We did a little test and it exploded,” she says. HELEN GERRO, Punta Gorda gerrocouture.com She began sewing and creating clothing at age 9, which led to sketching and painting and transferring those works onto her textile creations. Today, Gerro occupies space in the Artisan’s Atelier in Punta Gorda, where visitors can watch the artist create, perhaps select a custom design that’s ready to wear. Gerro has a collection of 150 of her own dresses, all unique and hand-painted.
“Life of an artist can be very tough. You must concentrate 100 percent.” — Mariapia Malerba