Part of the Marni royal family, Carolina Castiglioni is blessed with a load of exceedingly good assets. These include one ruggedly handsome husband Federico Ferrari, who runs the new Milan-based design company Edizioni; two ridiculously cute children that come permanently wrapped up in charm-your-pants-off Marni baby clothing; and an envy-inducing, four-story home in Milan replete not only with a front yard garden and winning mid-century interiors, but also a pool, which may be small, but is exceptionally rare in a city like Milan (much like having a pool at your apartment in Manhattan).
In between her weeklong job at her family’s company, where she is Director of Special Projects, there are Christmases in Cellerina (a small village next door to St. Moritz), summers at the family retreat in Formentera, and weekends away in whatever sunny Italian shores are whispering most convincingly.
In short, she’s got the full, five-star Milanese package.
But by far the thing we like the most about this great, gorgeous girl is that she doesn’t have the annoying attitude that often gets served alongside a plate of privilege. There is no drama. No pretention. No self-promotion. She’s not a star and not trying to be one. She is perfectly calibrated to that Italian balance of living a wonderful, understated lifestyle and looking exceedingly good while doing it. And while fashion is her noble realm by birth, she’s not fashion obsessed. “No, I am not!” she stresses. “But I love Marni,” she adds with a big grin. “I am Marni obsessed. But really fashion is just our life. It’s normal.”
Carolina’s mother is the chic hippie Consuelo Castiglioni who launched the Marni label in 1994 as a ready-to-wear extension of the family’s historic fur company originally founded in the 1950s. Great style runs in the genes. Not only is her mother known to sport satin flatforms covered in Swarovski crystals with an embellished boxy overcoat while running errands (with messy hair and no makeup, but looking terrifically modern) but her grandmother is also a fashion force, even in her 80s.
“People stop her on the street all the time,” Carolina says of her paternal Nonna, who strolls the posh sidewalks of Milan’s Via Montenapoleone and Via Gesu, where Carolina’s family home is located. “She’s very elegant with the skirt, polished shoes, fur vest, perfect gloves, a hat and she’s often wearing Marni. When she comes to our home, she says Margherita [Carolina’s two-year-old daughter] never has enough clothes. And if her onesie isn’t perfectly white and starched, she’ll order it changed immediately.”
Her meticulous Nonna also generously hand-wrote all of the family’s recipes out in a special book for Carolina once she started a brood of her own, which includes pasta fagioli and small, crunchy polpettini (meatballs).
Since Carolina is rarely out on the party circuit—she’s much too busy determining Marni’s web strategy, organizing its artistic collaborations or throwing special events like the Marni Flower market (a gigantic pop-up flower shop that brought fashion week’s most jaded journalists to their knees with enthusiasm)—peeking into her private home is all the more satisfying. She’s a design buff who knows her Gio Ponti from her Osvaldo Borsani and has amassed a huge collection of miniature design chairs from the Vitra museum.
The very vertical home, once a ceramic factory, has an elevator and an iron staircase that Federico designed. The mood is colorfully light and casual; perfect for running around with kids but just as appropriate for adult play amongst heavy weight design pieces such as vintage couches by Osvaldo Borsani for Techno or from Dimore Studio and a 1970s coffee table by Willy Rizzo. Even the children’s toys, including design-y wooden blocks and vintage race cars, never look out of place.
“We did the house over many years, picking just what we like and what we found,” she explains.
Similarly, the brand of Marni is known for its quirky design edge, a charm that intensifies when mixing the current collection with past season’s or even vintage clothes, as we’ve shown here. Carolina herself is a big proponent of ‘shaking things up,’ including bashing together prints that are seemingly incongruent. “Sometimes you have to change three times before you get it right, but in the end, it works,” she says of mismatching prints. “This I learned from my mom. It’s the way she creates the collection—very instinctively.’
The other thing her mom taught her is that skin-flashing, curve-hugging, boob-busting clothes are not necessarily the means to a beguiling end. “I hate tight clothes,” Carolina admits with a groan. “They are so much work! And not comfortable.”
Team DoubleJ could not agree more wholeheartedly. But when I lament that my husband oftentimes finds my most beloved Marni outfits more maternity than foxy, she comes back with the perfect retort. “YOU should be sexy,” she declares, “not your dress.”