Making art affordable and accessible is the philosophy behind artist, designer and entrepreneur Gianna Lucia’s clothing and accessory brand True Lucia.
“A canvas painting, you can only hang it in a house and only whoever comes in the house sees it — and it’s also expensive,” she said. “I’ve always wanted art to be accessible, something that anyone can have.”
Lucia grew up in a family of artists, so art was just part of her life.
“I’ve been making art since before I can remember, but I didn’t take it seriously until I was 16,” she said. “I realized I wanted to do this full time, so I moved to New York City at 17 to hustle and make it as an artist.”
Lucia created her brand during the pandemic when galleries closed down and art sales declined, forcing her to look at other options for income. During that time, she began painting on denim and modeling her work on Instagram.
“People started DMing me and asking to send in their thrifted clothes or jeans they don’t wear for me to paint on it,” she said. “It took me a year to get going and get a lot of customers. It wasn’t until I moved to Charleston that my work blew up, which I’m so grateful for.”
Lucia started selling her work at local craft markets and pop-ups, but soon was able to open up her own shop. That John Street shop, True Lucia, opened in July 2021 and is filled with bright colors, groovy music and Lucia’s hand-designed clothes — including hand-painted jeans, dyed jumpsuits and hats perfect for a summer festival.
Her clothing and designs exude love, positivity and happiness, all of which shine through Lucia herself.
“I want my store and my art to be a positive space, just for a minute,” Lucia said. “I just want people to feel accepted. It feels good, just like love.”
Opening the brick-and-mortar was no small feat, though.
“I’m 22. I don’t have a lot of money. I have whatever I’m making from the business, so I put it right back in,” Lucia remarked. “My husband and I had to build everything ourselves … We painted, built all the furniture, put all of the fixtures up and did the flooring.”
A year later, the shop has only grown in popularity. The clothing in the curated store features some of Lucia’s signature artwork, like her painted faces, alongside one-of-a-kind pieces. Customers can even send Lucia their favorite pair of jeans for her to paint.
“All my designs start from a doodle. Then I’ll go work on a canvas painting. There’s never a sketch or anything. It’s just whatever comes out of my hand when I’m writing, which I think is really cool,” she said.
Her inspiration often comes from people and music.
“I love people watching. I love just hearing the stories of different people and seeing where they come from. I used to do a lot of my art in the city. I would see people on the subway or in the park and just sketch.”
In addition to her own designs, Lucia also stocks clothing and accessories from other area artists and makers.
“I want myself and True Lucia to be a place where people who are starting out their businesses can come and talk to me and have a safe space to sell their work. I want True Lucia to be more than just a clothing and lifestyle brand.”
Much of Lucia’s work focuses on building community and creating spaces for artists and makers to feel included in Charleston’s art scene. In fact, she and her husband, Tim Widmayer, sought out a place with community when moving from New York, landing in Charleston.
“Charleston, to me, is like a mini Manhattan. I’ve been in the art scene for the past four years and Manhattan has the most talented, amazing, hard working people, but Charleston has that, too,” she said. “Everyone here is so loving and they all want to collaborate and help each other. I’ve noticed in New York City people don’t want to help you. They’re all trying to get to the top.”
Lucia hopes to continue building relationships and strengthening the tight-knit, supportive arts community in the city. Future plans for True Lucia include a creative studio space for artists, stores in major cities like Los Angeles and New York and a larger Charleston storefront to include more local artists and vendors.
She also looks forward to being a mentor for artists and small businesses in the area.
“I’m learning as I go,” Lucia said. “There’s a lot of stuff you can’t Google. If other artists have questions, I want to help. I want everyone to succeed and just have the answers. If they need something, I want to be able to give it to them.”
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