Trust us, captivating, creative women abound in Milan, but they’re not parked in front of the Duomo all day, or lounging in Prada’s shoe department, or grazing at the bar at the Bulgari Hotel. They’re tucked away in their offices out of sight during the week and then disappear from the city into the countryside the minute the clock strikes 6pm on Friday.

Young working mothers like the stylist Enrica Ponzellini and fashion designer Marta Ferri are two cases in point. Each woman has plenty of reason to party all night—Ponzellini is Vogue Gioiello’s Fashion Director and Ferri is the daughter of fashion photographer Fabrizio Ferri, but they choose to stay out of the limelight and keep their noses firmly tucked into their twin jobs of family and fashion.

Milan, it turns out, is a perfect place for those dual pursuits. “I love it here,” says Ponzellini, 33, who was born in Bologna and raised between Rome, London and Luxembourg.  “It’s sufficiently international, but a manageable size. You don’t have to book your restaurant a week in advance. Having a child means you need to be very organized, so in my personal life, I want things very relaxed.”

“I’m very happy to raise my kids here,” agrees 30-year-old Ferri, who lived in New York before returning to her hometown of Milan five years ago.  She concedes that Milan can be a bit provincial, yet these two friends have molded their lives here into rich scenes.  Ferri runs her own couture atelier where she makes bridal gowns and custom-made dresses for brainy socialites like her sister-in-law, the journalist Beatrice Borromeo or the artist Micol Sabbadini. On the brink of giving birth to her first son, Ferri was juggling two wedding-dress clients and three design collaborations, with Italian sneaker company Superga, espadrilles brand ManeBi and bathing suit label Isole Volcani.  “They’re putting me on bed rest domani,” she laughs, in great spirits despite being nine months pregnant on the day of our DoubleJ shoot.

Ponzellini is no less prolific. She got her fashion start after Vogue.it’s Sara Maino spotted her during a summer fashion course at Milan’s IED University a decade ago. “I was super stronza bossy and Sara said I’d be perfect as a fashion editor,” Ponzellini says. The next week, she entered the office of Vogue Italia chief Franca Sozzani. “She has these ice blue eyes and blond waves that cascaded perfectly,” Ponzellini recalls. “I’d never seen anything like it.”

Ponzellini sweat her way up the ladder at Vogue Italia, from fashion intern to assistant to editor, and finally to Director at Vogue Gioiello, where she has discovered young photographers like KiKi Xue or Elena Rendina, and continues to inhale advice from her iconic boss Franca Sozzani.  “There’s always a solution to everything and nothing is impossible,” Ponzellini says, admiringly.

Even when they’re not working, both women’s creative machines are purring. Ferri creates jewelry and handbags in addition to her custom-made clothing. She spends hours inside her mother’s fabric shop, Mimma Gini, in Milan (site of our DoubleJ shoot), making curtains, bedspreads, pillows, garment bags and nursery décor for her new home (also shown in our story) with husband Carlo Borromeo.

“You can design whatever you want here,” says Ferri of Mimma Gini’s brightly striped interiors. “You can mix textiles with vintage fabrics, and they make it all by scratch.”

“I’m going to custom-make draw-string baby sacks here in a washable, cute blue and beige fabric,” adds Ponzellini.  “I hate it when blankets, bottles and feeding stuff are just thrown in a suitcase.”

A craft-maniac who trolls vintage markets for clothes and furniture that she customizes herself, Ponzellini also designs her own tuxedo shirts and underskirts and has them made by her tailor, just like Milan’s old-school gentlewomen.  Friends for nearly a decade, both women represent the city’s next generation of self-possessed tastemakers who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and jump into their jobs.  The sleeves, however, are not attached to the city’s traditional blue oxford shirts.  In fact, these girls love go to against the Milanese grain in blinding color, toe-tapping prints and unexpected exuberance.

“My mother used to dress me as a boy,” remembers Ferri of her bland burgundy, navy and grey childhood wardrobe.  “I wasn’t allowed to have any brands—she even took the Superga logos off my shoes. At 14, I completely rebelled.

“Me too!” agrees Ponzellini. “I think I only work in fashion today because my mother dressed me only in navy blue black and white. All I wanted was the pink stuff.”

Still style rogues today, there are certain Italian traditions by which these girls faithfully abide. Both women, for example, freely drank coffee, coca-cola and alcohol during their pregnancies. “As long as you don’t get drunk it’s fine,” says Ponzellini with a shrug. “The one thing we had to give up, though, was prosciutto,” she adds. “That was tough.”

– J.J. Martin

Story Credits
  • Creative Director- J.J. Martin
  • Photographer- Alberto Zanetti
  • Fashion Director- Viviana Volpicella