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Danielle Scarpulla: The Beauty in Fashion and in Stamps

Danielle Scarpulla (BFA 06) is a proud Stamps School alum and Italy-based fashion designer who launched her own consulting company, Danielle Scarpulla, in May 2023. Scarpulla has experience working in luxury shoe design but is now breaking into more creative fashion projects, working with linens and textiles to help add special flair to one’s home and wardrobe. 

Far from her beginnings in San Francisco, Scarpulla studied footwear and pattern-making at Cordwainers College in London and Arsutoria in Milan after graduating from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. She has worked at a variety of companies including Jimmy Choo, Fendi, Versace and Ferragamo.

After her fashion experience in both the United States and abroad, Scarpulla shares her insights on breaking into the fashion industry, how to be adaptable in the fashion world, her Stamps experience and advice for current students.

The Path to Italy

Danielle Scarpulla arranges a flower centerpiece.

Some may say Italy is a cliché place to work in fashion, and Scarpulla is one of those people. Her path to Italy was not an intended path, though she is happy to be there now. 

After graduating from Stamps, Scarpulla traveled home to San Francisco and designed jewelry and cocktail hats out of a studio for some time. She dreamed of breaking into the shoe industry.

After a little bit, my mom said, You’re either going to do something or stop talking about shoes because you’ve been talking about it for a long time.’ It was the motivation I needed,” Scarpulla said.

After this push from her mother, Scarpulla found a pattern-making program in Milan, Arsutoria, and decided to enroll.

I was worried to go because I thought I would be too pigeonholed into doing just pattern-making, then they would offer me a job where they would just want me to only do that,” Scarpulla said.

Though she faced some hesitation at first, she made a seemingly rash decision when booking a one-way flight to Italy. A 3‑month-long stay for the program turned into 15 years for Scarpulla, who now works in Varese, Lombardy, just northwest of Milan.

Stamps Highlights

Scarpulla’s time at Stamps was invaluable to her and her work. Taking a variety of classes and working with many mediums allowed her to expand her skillset. While she was a student, Scarpulla felt frustrated she couldn’t focus and zone in on just one or a few creative practices, but now is grateful for that.

I think I am one of the only people I know in the fashion industry who didn’t go to fashion school,” Scarpulla said. They come from a really different background. It helps me in a lot of ways in that I have friends who went to fashion school, but they don’t actively sew or do pattern-making. At Stamps, I just learned how to make things and problem solve, which I think is a really big part of design.”

The ability to work in different mediums was important for shoes, which are made of leather, wood, metal, hard plastics, rubber and more. Other than learning manual skills, learning how to use software like Adobe Illustrator was valuable to Scarpulla when working in the fashion industry.

Scarpulla initially decided to go to the Stamps School because it offered so many mediums and gave students access to incredible mentors. She said Associate Professor Anne Mondro and Career Development Coordinator John Luther, among others, encouraged her and pushed her to follow her creative passions while she was a student. She said she would not be where she is today without that guidance.

Bright colored tablecloths drape over a bannister outside a building.
Tovaglia Viola e Marrone / Purple and Brown Tablecloth 145×240 cm, 100% linen by Danielle Scarpulla

Studying Abroad

While a student at Stamps, Scarpulla studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark to learn about textile design. This experience shaped her future work in shoes because she learned how to transfer prints from a textile to shoes. 

People who work in ready-to-wear design have specialized people who do all the prints for them, but in shoes, it’s just us. So, we have to redo all the prints, put them in high definition, and place them on the shoes,” Scarpulla said. I really liked doing that, so I started a company to do that.”

Danielle sits on stone steps with a small dog.

The Best Part is Making

After over 15 years in the fashion industry, Scarpulla says she still feels driven by her love for making beautiful things and is inspired by the ability to work for herself.

I love making,” Scarpulla said. I love the creative part. I do also really love the organizational part – and I don’t love Excel or things like that – but I love the organizational part of getting through a collection and giving it the shape I wanted to give it.”

Despite being a part of the successful shoe industry, Scarpulla decided to branch out. She felt boxed in – and limited to one product.

Colorful square pillow with checkered and flower pattern.
Federa Viola e Marrone per Cuscino / Purple and Brown Pillow Cover 63×63 cm, 100% cotton

In shoes, somebody else is making the patterns. That’s what I did when I first finished school,” Scarpulla said. I was pattern making for shoes, and you get to be really hands-on in a factory. When you’re in a design office, some companies really don’t want you to touch anything. They just want you to design.”

Now working for herself in her consulting company, Scarpulla feels she has found the ability to be autonomous and have control over her creative work. She can do more than design and can be more hands-on in her work. She can use her skills and experience to work on creating a breadth of fashionable accessories for her collection.

Advice for Students

Scarpulla keeps her advice to current Stamps students simple: be a sponge. She believes in the importance of soaking up all the learning opportunities and to use the University of Michigan’s network.

Take advantage of all of it,” Scarpulla said. Take advantage of the connections and get to know your teachers. Get them interested in you and what you want to do because they’re super enthusiastic about this, I found that. So, just sponge. Take in as much help, connections and suggestions as you can – and the critiques.” 

Though it can be tough for students to feel inspired or confident after harsh critiques or criticism from a professor, Scarpulla says the lessons learned were invaluable. Once students leave school, these opportunities for critiques are rare.

Once you’re out of school, no one wastes the time to sit with you and talk to you about your art,” Scarpulla said. Learn to critique and learn to accept the critique. Learn to appreciate it because you’ll miss it so much when nobody has time to sit with you and talk to you for 30 minutes about your new print.”

Story by Rachel Mintz.