“America is the place where if you think you should do something, you should do it,” says Margherita Vezzani, founder and owner of Barefoot Home, an Italian-inspired company of linen home goods.
Margherita, who was an ear, nose and throat doctor at a hospital in Milan, Italy, moved here in 2015 with her family after her husband, Tommaso, received a job proposal they couldn’t refuse—in turn, Margherita found her true passion here, as well.
“In Italy, there’s no elasticity … there’s no space to change what you do to be happy or to take the risk of a new path—but in America, I found exactly that open-minded situation,” she reflects. “You can be a doctor, but you can also have your passion and make that work, too. It changed my mindset … to really take my passion seriously and take a risk on it. I learned that in America—that was something I would’ve never thought. It changed everything.”
Although dreams to start her own business began prior to the pandemic, COVID gave Margherita time to hone her craft and define her vision—and it all started by gifting handmade bread bags.
“I was a mom with five kids during the lockdown—it was crazy!” Margherita laughs. “Everyone was home, there was no time for myself. I decided I needed fun time, and I started sewing with a couple friends from Italy here in Cincinnati every Thursday morning … that was really when I started to love to sew.”
Her first bread bag was a gift to a friend in Madeira.
“During the lockdown, every store was closed … I had fabrics in my house, I had the sewing machine, and I thought, ‘What should I do for her?’” Margherita remembers. “And I said, ‘OK, they’re a family of eight, they’re Italian—and we always eat bread, as everybody knows—so why don’t I just do this?’ and I made a homemade loaf of bread and the bag. When I saw everything finished, I just loved it.”
Once the quarantine eased, Vezzani wondered if she should really invest in her passion or just keep it a hobby. With Tommaso’s encouragement, she decided to jump all in.
“He said, ‘I think you should go ahead with this because when you do this you are happy, so why should you look for another job? Let’s see if this is for you and for us … the reality will tell if clients are happy.’ He really supported me in amazing ways, and best of all? The clients are happy.”
As an artist, Margherita attributes her love of colors and fabrics to her mother and grandmothers; she often pulls design ideas from the Italian Middle Ages and the fascinating stories of remarkable women from Italian eras.
“There’s a tradition in Italy where everything is refined in some way, but simple. You can find several women with hand-making skills. When I came here, I was missing so much of that and missing having my own space to express myself.”
Margherita expanded her repertoire and learned to embroider, going back to her homeland over the last three summers to take classes from Italian seamstresses.
“I met some very fantastic women who were masters in embroidery … I would spend afternoons there working and being corrected by them,” Margherita smiles. “They’d say, ‘This is what you should do, what you should correct.’ I loved it so much.”
Margherita also collaborates with Italian friend and designer Lucia Bertaggia, creating their own textures and patterns that are then printed in Italy, using quality options such as linen, organic cotton, twill and canvas.
“Every corner in Italy is amazing—I hope people can breathe in and experience the colors and feeling of Italy through us,” Margherita says. “It’s a special way for me to not lose any of my Italian culture … but it has to be useful not just for me, but for other people, too.”
And everything is handmade—barefoot, homemade—with family time being a foundation to what drives her.
“That is exactly the name I wanted my business to be—because when you’re in a friend’s home or your own home, you take your shoes off. It’s something that’s in the spirit and heart of ‘Barefoot’—sharing life around the table,” Margherita explains. “You really want to make the moment around the table unique … we have to value that moment because it’s not easy to find time around the table or with family because our lives are so busy. Every night we put the tablecloth on the table, we set the table, and we take that one hour of the day to eat together and share the day. And you can be angry, sad, or super excited—everything can fit around the table. So for me, it was a point we didn’t want to lose.”
All Barefoot Home products are reversible, recyclable, can be used for days at a time or fit neatly into a purse. They don’t need to be thrown away after six months, don’t take up space on the counter, and can be used for other purposes such as gift presentations, pot holders, food travel, jewelry bags and more.
As the company grows, Margherita and Lucia plan to create personalized items for restaurants and have a physical shop in town.
“These are not just things that you make, this is something that you live,” she says happily.
BarefootHomemade.com | @barefoothomemade