Carla Sersale has a dreamy job. With her husband and his family, she runs (and owns) perhaps the most glamorous and exquisite tiny slice of paradise on Italy’s Amalfi coast, the hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano. Writer John Steinbeck helped put Sirenuse on the map when he visited in 1953, two years after it opened, writing in Harper’s Bazaar. “We went to the Sirenuse, an old family house converted into a first class hotel, spotless and cool, with grape arbors over its outside dining rooms. Every room has a little balcony and looks out over the blue sea to the islands of the sirens from which those ladies sang so sweetly…”
Le Sirenuse became synonymous with La Dolce Vita and continues to hold the same allure today. Le Sirenuse is the type of place that makes you want to dress the part. So in 2013 Carla set out to help her guests do just that by creating a line of colorful resort pieces including caftans, dresses, bathing suits, shorts and more. While thoroughly modern, the collection retains the elegance of the Sixties and Seventies when women really made an effort on vacation and wore statement jewels, long caftans and glittering sandals to dinner. I can seriously envision myself in one of the caftans sipping a Negroni on the terrace whilst staring out at the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sadly that is not in my near future. Luckily Le Sirenuse is now sold at places like Matches and Bergdorfs, so one can enjoy a bit of Positano anywhere. (Perhaps a dress to wear at the Le Sirenuse restaurant at Miami’s Surf Club?) Here, Carla shares what’s next for the collection and what makes Positano so magical.
What is the idea behind Le Sirenuse Positano? We have a small boutique hotel that has a history of being the best hotel in Positano since it opened in 1951. It’s still owned by the same family, which is my husband’s family. When we are there, we entertain a lot. The feeling of elegance and understatement of the place and La Dolce Vita is reflected in my collection. It’s a collection focused on resort–pieces that you would wear in a place like Positano or Palm Beach of St. Tropez.
It’s very glamorous.
Glamorous but very understated, fresh and simple.
How has the collection evolved? The first year and I was obsessed with Suzani embroideries. Because my father in law had lived in Tehran for seven years and my husband was there for four, our houses are full of Suzani embroideries and rugs from Persia. I made cushions and pillows from Suzani patterns which I still sell online. The next collection coming up, resort, is inspired by the Sumerian population of Mesopotamia in 3,000 b.c.. My niece is the designer and she studied their patterns and iconography and designed a collection with tigers, palm trees, moons, stars, planets, rivers that flow and forests with animals. We never buy prints. We always make them. Allegra Hicks designs the prints for our men’s bathing suits. We also use a lot of cotton, which I think is hard to find. In the summer silk is too hot, especially in Positano.
Your use of color is different than anywhere else.
People are impressed by the sun and by the colors of the Amalfi coast. It’s a very happy place. The light is beautiful and the sea is very blue. Plus if you go to a fun summer place you don’t want to wear black.
What do you hope that women experience when they buy your clothing? I hope they will take away some memories of Positano. This is very iconic to who we are—the idea of an understated elegance, not flashy, but lovely and romantic. We are full of people that come here to rest and have a nice time, to look at the view and basically not do much more. It’s not a place that you come to play golf or do any activities. You come to enjoy the view, the service, the drinks, the atmosphere.
Do you have any favorites? Best-sellers? The medium caftan, which is actually a top, has been our best seller for seasons. It’s very versatile and can be worn by everybody. The Brenda dress is too. I love the shorts. I wear them a lot. They’re easy. The swimsuits are beautiful too.
What makes Positano different than any place else in the world? Positano is different because you will never find any place like it where houses are hanging on the rocks. Below you have a big church with a dome styled with 16th century tiles and the beach in front. Then you have Capri 20 minutes away.
You have unbelievable food wherever you eat, even a sandwich will be the best sandwich you’ve ever had. It’s a blessed place because you have the Mediterranean culture on top of unbelievable nature. If you go by boat from Positano to Capri you go along the coast and it’s almost wild. There are barely any houses and it’s vertical rocks with pine trees and Mediterranean bushes. It’s so gorgeous, if you’re not thinking too much you could imagine you’re in Thailand, somewhere very wild but then you’re not. You can actually disembark in Capri and go and have a drink in the piazzetta and it’s going to be very sophisticated. Where else do you find a place like this?