SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

September 2, 2008

FASHION STAR'S HOMECOMING

Topsfield's Gia Ventola once outfitted a global pop icon.

She designed a pink pleather tube top, white pleather jacket and pants ensemble that Britney Spears wore a decade ago during her rise to superstardom. That outfit was later adapted and replicated thousands of times over on Barbie dolls.

Other celebrities took notice. Destiny's Child, Pink, Macy Gray and Cher have donned some of Ventola's creations. Her clothes have also graced a New York City runway during Fashion Week and sold in spots throughout Europe and Asia.

Ventola's career has sent her around the country and globe, but the 32-year-old has recently returned to her roots on the North Shore. She will next month open her "flagship boutique" in Peabody.

Located on Sylvan Street, in between the Northshore and Liberty Tree malls, it will bear the designer's full name. Ventola has spent the last six months meticulously redesigning what was once a Sprint cell phone store.

She describes her vision for the 3,000-square-foot space as "Gothic baroque." From the multilevel, industrial ceiling hangs a large, black chandelier near the store's entrance. Its heft stands in contrast to a crop of narrow, curving fixtures that resemble snakes slithering in midair.

Most of the interior is black. It took more than 120 gallons to get the desired coverage, Ventola said. The concrete floors are complemented by a thick, multisection concrete countertop, carved to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Each copper clothes rack has its own distinct design.

Ventola is responsible for all of it, even the makeup on the Belgium-made male and female mannequins.

Her goal is to combine the unique decor with first-rate service to create a destination, to draw people from throughout the North Shore and beyond.

"Everybody wants a destination," Ventola said. "They want the 25 parking spaces. They want to feel like a million bucks when they walk in."

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