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Jul 07, 2023

Ssheena is a punk rocker

In 1977, Ramones sang ‘Sheena is a punk rocker’. A few years ago, Sabrina Mandelli added an extra S and established Ssheena, a contemporary, irreverent and untamable independent fashion project, reflecting Mandelli’s bold attitude. In high school, she drew punk graphics on the walls of her classroom. She got sent to the principal’s office, but a teacher discovered her unconventional talent. Although already fascinated by fashion, she used to wreck cars in her father’s wrecking company in her free time. 

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sabrina Mandelli, founder of Ssheena as a contemporary, irreverent and untamable independent fashion project © Ssheena

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sabrina Mandelli, founder of Ssheena as a contemporary, irreverent and untamable independent fashion project. © Ssheena

Sabrina Mandelli’s studies at Istituto Marangoni then paved the way for her career as a fashion designer, which started when Dolce&Gabbana hired her for celebrity, demi-couture and special looks. After Antonioli requested her consulting services for a niche brand, she joined Off-White, where she worked closely with founder Virgil Abloh and became their Womenswear Design Director.

“Ssheena is my naughty baby” – Sabrina Mandelli, founder of Ssheena and Istituto Marangoni alumna

But Mandelli has always dreamt of a solo project. “Ssheena is my naughty baby,” she wrote in her LinkedIn profile. And this naughty kid has come a long way since she launched it. With a deep love of both dressier menswear and workwear, Mandelli explores dualisms and contrasts. 

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Un post condiviso da SSHEENA (@ssheena_official)

Ssheena loves sexuality, non-conformism and Italian-made products. Her dedication to ‘Made in Italy’ quality pushed her again to the top, qualifying her for the CNMI Fashion Trust Grant 2023 final.

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

“I don’t think there are right or wrong pieces. It’s our attitude and the atmosphere behind them that makes the difference. Style is about culture, not clothes,” Sabrina Mandelli often says. So, we sat down with this Istituto Marangoni alumna to learn more about her Ssheena.

But wait a second. If Sheena is a punk rocker, who is Ssheena? “Ssheena is equivocal by choice,” Mandelli wrote in her fashion manifesto. “Ssheena is a woman who does not care but is also a careless man. Ssheena is, above all, an idea(l) of a woman prone to short circuits and neurosis. Art lover, she does not collect it. She does not turn artists into holy cards. She uses them, filters and demolishes them. She is iconoclastic, partly out of attitude and partly out of vice. She is contradictory and makes a point of it. Ssheena, however, is involved in fashion.”

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

For us, Ssheena represents a state of mind shaped by the dark side of expressionism, the uncertain lines of futurism and the controversy of pop inspirations. Sabrina Mandelli enjoys knitwear to create architectural silhouettes enhanced by Italian tailoring as her signature. Merging minimalism and uniqueness, Ssheena rejects constraints and limits, if not the purity of clean cuts.

The interview can begin now, and I am thrilled to share Mandelli’s journey, taking you into Ssheena’s world.

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

We went to the same school. What has attending Istituto Marangoni taught you?
That coolness that you may not breathe or learn in the same way in other fashion schools. 

We can describe Ssheena as a project rather than a brand. How did it all come about? What was your inspiration?
The Ssheena project started as a precise idea after years of consulting and experience in leading brands. I had a fixed thought of controlling the whole structure, from design to production, from showroom to sales campaign. A Ramones song, “Sheena is a punk rocker”, inspired the brand’s name and our unconventional, out-of-the-box style.

Sportswear, street and workwear influences with meticulous research on fabrics and Made in Italy production. Craftsmanship plays a key role in your brand...
I prioritise design over craftsmanship. While it’s essential to create high-quality garments, our values lie in bringing a design to life and turning it from paper into a well-made, wearable piece. I am not into lengthy, meticulous construction processes as if clothes were works of art; my idea of fashion is wearable and not time-consuming. If we want to talk about sustainability...

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

A look by Ssheena. © Ssheena

Ssheena has made uniqueness its signature. With fast fashion dominating the global market, how would you define this uniqueness?
When I think of ‘unique’, I think of the uniqueness of the concept, the thought behind it. This is unique because I designed it myself. Of course, nothing hasn’t already been done, but the way I thought of it and how I communicated it to whoever would manufacture it is undoubtedly unique and inimitable, and so is the unique combination of elements that create Ssheena collections.

How would you describe the Ssheena woman?
Contemporary, irreverent and untamable.

Fashion evolves constantly, but the names on the radar are always the same: any ideas?
Fashion innovates by definition, but the focus is always the same. It would be enough for the industry, buyers, press and insiders to give space to new independent designers who have their projects with exciting stories to tell through their collections.

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sabrina Mandelli, founder of Ssheena. © Ssheena

Istituto Marangoni alumna Sabrina Mandelli, founder of Ssheena. © Ssheena

Tell us about your plans for the future.
The ones you can expect: to grow the brand and to show at Milan Fashion Week.

What is your advice to those who want to undertake the same journey as you?
I would tell them: give up! No, just kidding, of course. But I would advise them not to be afraid to work hard without pretending to be ‘fabulous’; perseverance pays off. I would also tell them not to focus only on the drawing but on the full development of the design project on the human body.

The CNMI Fashion Trust is an initiative to support new talent. At this stage of your career, what has it meant to you to have been among the finalists?
Receiving this award is truly exceptional. It is rare and admirable that someone realises the importance of independent brands and fashion businesses that require the necessary resources and attention to thrive in a complex industry.



Agnese Pasquinelli
Fashion Business, Digital Communication & Media student, 2nd year, Milan