The Fortunatos' Grandmothers
They’re involved—as in, they even help with production.
Lizzie Fortunato, with constant help and occasional prodding from her business-minded twin Kathryn, has been making and selling jewelry since she was a teenager. Two of the sisters’ earliest collaborators, teachers, and inspirations were their grandmothers, who love them always—even when they don’t approve of their color palettes.
Marian Fortunato a.k.a. “Granny”
Born: February 7, 1930, in Wilmington, Delaware (where Lizzie and Kathryn also grew up)
Pictured: With Kathryn (left) and Lizzie (right)
Lizzie: “She’s very much a maternal figure. She has three sons, and she’s the grandmother who, for every one of the grandchildren, embroidered the stocking at Christmastime and made a baby blanket—and these are not bootleg baby blankets. She’s an amazing knitter. I can remember being young and traveling with my grandparents, and she was trying to teach Kathryn and I to knit mittens or something. We failed spectacularly. Since then, she really has become integral as I’ve become more interested in, say, doing needlepoint, which we used a lot in our spring/summer 2010 collection—to the point where I was having production issues and literally sent her a pile of things to make. She was like, ‘I just received your package. Can I change colors?’ She has this kind of hilarious, tell-it-as-it-is attitude.”
Kathryn: “She said, ‘I don’t really care for the neon.’ Well, Bergdorf does! For her birthday last year—it was her 80th—we made her a press book of every story that included a piece with cross-stitch. It’s undeniable that she’s had a very big role in shaping the company—the inspiration, the design, and the production.
Hope Fremont a.k.a. “Nama”
Born: April 19, 1931, in Queens, New York
Pictured: With Lizzie at her college graduation
Kathryn: “Our maternal grandmother is this beautiful, traveling, chic, classic woman. Her first job was in the Empire State Building. She didn’t have any money to her name growing up, but she did sew. She talks about spending so much money on, like, a cuff that she embroidered onto her jacket for dinner one night—she had this appreciation for high fashion even if it wasn’t that she was buying it.”
Lizzie: “When we went to her and my grandfather’s house as a kid, she always had her sewing machine and Vogue Patterns out. She would be cutting and sewing wool coats. Her style is really just incredible.”
Kathryn: “Lizzie’s made one-off pieces for her—like gigantic coral necklaces—and they’re some of our favorites. She just wears them so marvelously. I can’t imagine a better model for them.”