lGentucca and lGiorgiana
A beautiful chaos in Milan explodes inside the magical hybrid home-studio-factory of Gentucca Bini where work merges seamlessly with creative capers, salon-style dinners, art exhibits and even country-like gardening on an unexpected roof top garden. Bini is an architect by training and a fashion designer by trade. Her fantasy-laden playground, located near the canals on the outskirts of the city center, features a ground floor design studio and production lab for her eponymous niche fashion label as well as an upstairs home where she entertains a cascade of artist friends, family and locals, like her childhood pal and PR executive Giorgiana Ravizza.
“This is a dream, a paradise place,” Bini says of the 1950s structure, originally built as a button factory and later occupied by the Dario Fo theatre troop whose dancers and actors would bound across its raw oak floors. “I left everything as it was because I wanted to keep its spirit. I just brought all of my belongings so I could live within the magic.”
When she moved here six years ago, Bini added only towering wood bookshelves that she designed herself to accommodate her never-ending supply of bric-a-brac. The shelves in her main living space are now jam-packed with Spanish Barbie dolls, high-school notebooks, theater stubs, fashion invitations, precious pins by Schiaparelli (who was friends with her grandmother), hat boxes by Pierre Cardin, vintage trunks and bags by Romeo Gigli, where she was a Creative Director for three years. Valuable antiques mix with massive Tuscan country tables in the open space that triple duties as a kitchen, dining and living room.
“When you look around, you get the feeling that everything in this house has a story,” remarks her long-time friend Ravizza, another Milanese thoroughbred whose grandparents founded the giant clothing manufacturing company GFT. “It’s not about her displaying important objects or collections. It’s about telling stories.”
“I never throw things away,” Bini adds with a shrug. “And the strange thing is, I don’t buy anything either. All of these things have just come to me somehow.” She points to a classic uniformed butler’s jacket hanging over an armoire as an example. “When we were 15, Giorgiana had a big party at her country house and told me I could take a piece of clothing from the butler’s closet. I was obsessed with uniforms. I always wore that jacket whenever I went to an important party.”
Bini’s traditional Milanese roots are cross-pollinated with a deeply renegade eccentricity. “She’s always lived out of the box,” Ravizza explains. “She grew up in a very creative environment. Her parents weren’t typical Milan bourgeois. They were so cultural, so alive and very international.”
Granddaughter of Bruna Bini, a well-known fashion designer in post-war Milan (who serviced the city’s most genteel women out of her atelier in Via Montenapoleone) and a primo ballerino at La Scala, Bini was surrounded by a rattling band of creative types from an early age. Her father was a good friend and collaborator of Pierre Cardin. Her grandmother palled around with Lucio Fontana, Man Ray and Duchamp. Elsa Schiaparelli’s nephew lived next to her growing up. As a child, she attended the same posh school in Via della Spiga as her mother, grandmother and great grandmother and after studying Architecture at Milan’s Politecnico, completed a Master’s in Industrial Design in Paris. Following her studies she worked as an assistant to former American Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley, before jumping into the design studio at Romeo Gigli.
Launched in 2003, Bini’s own fashion label has been a niche affaire dedicated to specialized or one-off products as she continues to consult for bigger fashion companies. A few years ago she launched a project called By Gentucca Bini, in which she re-worked client’s old clothing or vintage items to create one-of-a-kind new creations. Last year, she developed a collection of unisex jumpsuits that were inspired by a group of artists, architects and old friends, including Ravizza. Her first presentation took place inside Milan’s oldest hardware store. Her next one took place inside an anonymous mom-and-pop trattoria. “It’s about discovery for her and making Milan come alive,” Ravizza remarks. “She is very unusual for a fashion designer. Context is much more important to her than trends.”
Usually dressed in one of her signature black jumpsuits that feature oversized pockets and waists, Gentucca shuttles between her upstairs garden and living quarters, which make for one of the city’s top dinner-party pads, and her downstairs atelier which houses the occasional exhibit or party, such as a recent one for her design and site-specific collaboration with Alcantara.
“I need to be around my family objects but I can’t think there,” says Bini of her anarchic living quarters. “To work, I go downstairs where it is all white, clean and minimal…. And far from the chaos.”
– J.J. Martin
Interested in buying your very own tuta (that’s Italian for jumpsuit)? Email firstname.lastname@example.org