The style ambition of New York’s East Village seems to have recently sunk to the abysmal levels of Los Angeles where almost no one aspires much higher than a thoughtless pair of jeans or exercise leggings for a weekend out on the town. But in the midst of this carelessness, one elegant woman stands out. Sitting in a bright garden restaurant on Bleecker Street, she is wearing a bold 1970s plaid pant suit paired daringly with a floral silk shirt (it’s ours- hooray!), a 19th century French cross brooch at her neck and 18th century chandelier earrings whose antique blue enamel stones glow with the same bright light as her own aquamarine eyes. With her long legs tucked under her like a foldable director’s chair, her eyes rimmed in smoky eye shadow, this woman is part vixen, part soigné, and part hip downtowner who might bust out any moment with a dance move in the funky vintage pant suit.
Clearly, she is not American.
“It’s a little depressing the way people don’t dress up here,” observes the woman in question, Alessandra Facchinetti, a Bergamo-born fashion designer who spent the last two decades in the design studios of Prada, Gucci, Valentino, and most recently Tod’s where she was the Creative Director for the last 3 years. After two workaholic decades, she’s finally exhaling and rooting down in New York with her musician-actor boyfriend. But the short-term move has the mannered, Milanese style arbiter temporarily disoriented.
“When I see people dressed without thought or consideration, I think ‘why don’t you take care of yourself?’” Facchinetti marvels, gazing shyly around the restaurant. “It’s not for other people. It’s for you. It’s a personal thing. It seems superficial but actually signifies how you treat yourself.”
Facchinetti is a world-class dresser. And she treats herself with the utmost care. She shows up wherever she goes looking like the quintessential Milanese breeze, with her signature look solidly in place. Every morning she custom-brews her own fragrance, layering several of the hundreds of bottles she has at home in a personal concoction that fits her day and mood. Her hair is always tidy and middle-parted even when she has it wrapped in a renaissance maiden braided messy ‘do. Her moody eyes are always framed in glittering shades of charcoal, eggplant or midnight blue (“I can put on make up anywhere,” she admits. “Even in the dark, and even while driving”). Mascara is always on (“Even when I go to yoga in the morning. I know it’s terrible. I can’t help it”). The lips are always strictly unpainted. Meanwhile, the chandelier earrings that look ripped off from the ceilings at Versailles, are a signature that has become uniquely hers. They are always on—even to the supermarket.
Facchinetti got these rigorous lessons and style scruples from her grandmother, who used to make her own jewelry from antique stones her grandfather would find. “Every time she prepared herself to go outside—even to the grocery store, she was perfect,” Facchinetti gushes. “I loved her and got my passion for jewelry from her.”
She also got that uniquely Italian, unwavering commitment towards caring for one’s self from her, which only mushroomed once she moved to Milan to study fashion at university.
“In Milan, there’s a whole other level of dressing that I love. There’s a sense of real consideration. You don’t need to be perfect but you have the sensibility to have thought about it.”
Facchinetti’s personal style has gone through a few phases, but each has been a fully-dedicated enterprise her grandmother would be proud of: first a dramatic, all-black Goth moment at Gucci, then a neutral turn with her clean, minimal, crisp uniform at Tod’s.
Nowhere is that better on view than in her apartment in Milan, a jewel of a home she plans to keep while she’s sojourning in New York. Here, her love for art, design and furniture is on full-view as the rooms she has designed herself are packed with extraordinary Dimore Studio chandeliers and coffee tables, Nilufar antique rugs, an early 1800s Petrof piano gifted from her musician father, plenty of 1950s vintage Italian chairs and a wisteria-knotted terrace.
Meanwhile, her closet explodes with saturated hues, patterns and ethnic treasures swinging with doo-dads and gizmos culled from her last trip to Bosnia. Her bathroom is filled with perfume bottles and sparkling jewels. She dives into the maximal LaDoubleJ world like she’s doing a triple lindy hop, just as she enthusiastically jumps into her bathtub fully dressed, pretending to pan handle jewelry from the soap dish. She’s a girl’s girl. But she’s beautifully turned out while doing it.
This is the Milanese way—and thankfully, no amount of time in New York will rub it off of her. Back in Manhattan, after lunch on the Lower East Side, she sets off on a walk down the street in purple suede Prada pumps boasting a hefty 3-inches chunky heel. “What?” she asks, when I arch an impressed eyebrow. “These are my walking shoes!”
To read Alessandra Facchinetti’s Milan Insider’s Guide CLICK HERE!