French + Italian: A ‘piece of Europe’ in Marblehead

Aimee Lombardi of Marblehead knew she wanted to own a clothing store since she was a kid. She would play pretend as a store owner and have her sisters customers.

“I forced my two younger sisters to play with me, I was like ‘be the customer be the customer’ and they’d be like ‘no!’ but it’s just like I’ve always wanted to do this,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi no longer has to play pretend in owning a clothing store because in 2007 she opened French + Italian, a clothing store in Marblehead, and a second location in Beacon Hill seven years ago.

“It was a lifelong dream to open something that was like a little piece of Europe brought back to the states, like a curated edited collection of designers that are unique and extremely well made in terms of the quality,” Lombardi said.

Everything sold in the store is hand picked by her, she said.

“For me, a big thing is color and print. We have a very dynamic aesthetic at the shop. We do anything from something super minimal, you know, very clean lines very uncluttered. But we also do things that are very maximalist, if you will, with huge prints and big ruffles,” Lombardi said.

When picking out a designer to work with she looks at how the clothes are made, she said.

“Making sure that a lot of our brands are sustainable at this point,” Lombardi said. “It’s one of those things too, that when we’re selecting a brand, we like to hear the story about the designer, how they started and what their passions are and a lot of times you connect with that.”

Clothing is like an “art,” she said. The best part of the job is helping customers find the right piece of clothing and “helping them feel good.”

“You can change someone’s whole day because they got that one compliment that said, ‘You look gorgeous in that,’” Lombardi said.

Lois DeWinter has been an employee at French + Italian for the past 10 years and said helping the customers is also her favorite part.

“I’ve been involved in retail for a long time,” DeWinter said. “And I love fashion and style … and [Lombardi] is great to work for.”

A lot of the merchandise sold in the store is from France or Italy, she said. Her family originated from the two countries and said her appreciation for fabrics came from her dad’s grandparents.

“Their whole family actually created textile mills in Italy, then they brought him to the states, and there’s patents now for some of the knits and gages that they invented,” Lombardi said.

Her French inspiration comes from her mom’s parents being from Lyon, France. Her sister also currently lives in Paris so she spends time there buying for the store.

One favorite piece of hers in the store right now is a gray wool coat with white detailing and the letter “T” sewn into the buttons for “Toteme,” the name of the brand.

“It’s a nice wool and it has beautiful detailing on it,” Lombardi said of the gray coat. “And it’s very lightweight, but it’s surprisingly warm, it has a scarf that is attached to it … just subtle details like that is kind of like what we’re all about.”

Having a business in Marblehead has been an amazing experience, she said.

“We’re so grateful to the community,” Lombardi said. “Obviously COVID was a really hard time for us … we literally are humbled by the kindness of this town and the generosity because we would not be here if it weren’t for all these wonderful people out there that would buy a gift card.”

In the upcoming year, Lombardi said she is working on her own clothing line for her store.

“It could be as early as the spring,” Lombardi said. “I’m going to plan to document it on social media so that people can follow our process as we do it.”