Debora, Shiny As Swarovski

August 13, 2012

Meet Debora.

Debora Lo Magno, copyright Jann Huizenga

I found Debora Lo Magno at a wedding, exuding cocktail glamour. She has, in spades, that incredible Italianate ability to transform oneself into a work of art.

Debora Lo Magno, copyright Jann Huizenga


A few weeks later we met at the bar. I didn’t recognize her right away because her real hair flows down her back in waves.


“I am 23,  a stilista, fashion designer,” she says. “I have another year of design school before I look for a job as a designer. I spent a year making this dress, working at night, sewing everything by hand. Including the crystals. They’re Swarovski.”

Swarovski!!!!” Indelicately, I ask what they cost.

“The material, the jewels, everything for the dress: around €2,500.”

That’s over $3,000. (Not counting labor.) How can a 23-year-old Sicilian woman afford this?

“Besides going to design school I have two jobs. Monday through Friday, I work as a secretary for an accountant, staring all day long at a computer screen.” (She crinkles her nose when she tells this.) “On Saturday and Sunday I work at Benetton. And all night I sew my clothes–usually till 3 or 4am.”

Giancarlo, her fidanzato, confirms this with a nod of the head and a roll of the eye.

Debora Lo Magno, copyright Jann Huizenga

“My nonna, grandmother, was a seamstress. She was my inspiration. I must be courageous. But following my dream is not so easy. People here do not understand me.”

We are, after all, in the hinterlands of Sicily.

Good luck, Debora! You blow me away!

38% of young people in Sicily cannot find work. Oh, Domenico Dolce, you of D&G fame, son of Sicily, won’t you give this passionate and talented young Sicilian a break?


Debora’s shoes: handmade in Rome. She tottered for 13 hours on them the night of the wedding resulting in feet so swollen she could barely walk the next day.

Debora’s hair: When she showed her hairdresser the dress, he said she needed a very special “do” and came up with this Japanese anime style using synthetic hair extensions. Debora said the faux hair gave her such a headache that she had to pull it out the next day!

Debora’s purse: Tied to her wrist with Swarovski gems.

Debora Lo Magno

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41 comments to Debora, Shiny As Swarovski

  • Debora

    Ciao a tutti!!!
    Sono Debora.
    Grazie per tutti i vostri commenti sul mio abito.

  • Anitre

    This chick is amazing! Where has she been hiding? Sicilians need to support more young people like her. Brava, Debora! Forza!

  • Oh, Debora is so beautiful and joyful. Very inspired too by her commitment! I’m sending both of you my good wishes and admiration from Melbourne, Australia.

  • Jann, Debora is simply beautiful! Molto bella! I was awestruck when I saw the dress and clutch. To have such an eye for design and the patience to sew crystals by hand–this is to be admired! Were we all to be so passionate about what we love! 🙂

  • I love this post Jann. I’ve had it open on my desktop all week! Debora is a fabulous example of what I love about modern Italy. She’s creative, single-minded, with an eye to family and tradition but uncompromising too. Plus she’s just solare in that wonderful way that comes naturally to the south. Nonostante tutto. Just a gorgeous post. Grazie!!!! x

  • Apparently one still has to suffer for beauty.

  • Nina

    Debora has beauty, talent, and brains. She can fly to the top. She just has to spread her wings.

  • molly

    Hi Jann, Like Marina above I have been a stealth follower of your insightful musings but could not resist commenting on lovely Debora. She is perfect right down to her perriwinkle blue metallic manicure! I was in the fashion industry in San Francisco for 25 years…I would have hired her in a flat minute. I found your blog 6 months ago during some research for our upcoming trip to Sicily (in two weeks!). Your site has allowed me to see the natural flow of life from the inside out. Mille grazie!

    • Jann

      Hi Molly! I love it when “stealth followers” drop a comment. Thank you! Debora will be happy to see your comment. Have a WONDERFUL trip!!!

  • lucy

    Wow! I admire her drive! Wish I had it. I hope good things come to her!

  • cemal karahan

    Although the unemployment rate is too high in Sicily , this adorable young lady is sure to find a good job if she is not restricted in Sicily because Italian fashion has already proved all around the world.And the hectic life she has can be endurable at her age. I send her a big ‘bravo’ thinking about the lazy Turkish girls ( not generalization )who have alrady become big consumers before knowing the value of effort, workforce, sweat and challenge. Hi, Jann…Hope you are fine….!
    Take care…!

    • Jann

      Hi Cemal– Thanks for your comment. Yes, Debora IS in the right country for fashion design!!! Hope you are having a good summer in Turkey!!!

  • Hello Jann, I have been following your blog for some time now, am not into comments but I wanted you to know I really like the way you talk about my country! I am sicilian, living in Tokyo for the past 6 years, but always glad to hear and read about my people. Thanks!!
    A big good luck wishes to Debora, I can see her talent. I also can make my own clothes, I know exactly how much hard work is needed, and WOW, the dress is stunning. Go Debora!!!

    • Jann

      Marina–thank you so much for your comment. So happy that you found the blog!!! That is pretty amazing about your life in Tokyo. Soooooooo different from Sicily!

  • What a totally glorious jewel she is!!!
    ciao lisa

  • So glad to “meet” Debora. I love the first photo — her smile is the perfect accessory! So beautiful. Her passion is obvious. I wish her the best.

  • Beautiful! An inspiration for all.

  • Cathy

    All I can say is …. WOW!!! What a beautiful young lady she is! And TALK about suffering for her art… Those shoes would make this old lady cry…because I couldn’t possibly wear them. Wish her the best of luck from me when you next see her Jann!

    • Jann

      Yes, Cathy–suffering for her art! The long year of making the dress and then the sore feet from the shoes and headache from the faux hair!!!! But you’re only young once…And I will pass along your wishes, Cathy… She’ll be so happy with your comment. xxxxx

  • vicki carol

    My Mother taught me to sew at the age of 12. I put those skills to work, first in the wholesale market selling to a Department store, but soon realized the amount of work it takes to produce. My advice to this young designer is to go Custom. I switched to Custom and never was in the red a day of my 18 year career.
    She can create her own Custom Design house. If you ever see her again, I would be happy to answer any of her questions. She does beautiful work.

  • Andrea

    As the bride was walking down the aisle, all eyes were on …. DEBORA!!!

  • Nancy Hersch

    She is beautiful and so is her arm candy. Love her dress too. I’m sure she will eventually find the job of her dreams.

  • Debora Lo Magno is a a diamond in the rough, whom “”Will Be”” discovered.

    I adore the jeweled purse & the fabulous, sexy hair!

    23 years old?

    You have only begun, baby.

    You must apply to go on Project Runway.

    Good luck on your adventures!


    • Jann

      Ah, Project Runway! I must mention this to her, Kim. Thanks for the idea! She will love reading your comments. GRAZIE MILLE!

  • Bonnie

    Jann, thank you for sharing this story of a young Sicilian’s creativity and drive. She’s not the only such young person on the island, she’s just the one lucky enough to have you as photographer and storyteller.

    • Jann

      Bonnie–you’re right. There are so many like her on the island–young and talented… Unfortunately getting a job in Sicily is still often based on connections rather than talent.

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann, Debora is a beauty with an amazing talent. Anyone with that much passion can’t miss. Lots of good luck for Debora.

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