“Che carino! What a man!” exclaims Lucia Mantero, her blue eyes crinkling in a fit of giggles as she retells the most Lake Como story of all Lake Como stories: a sighting of the Italian town’s most famous resident, George Clooney.
“I was helping my mother at a charity tea party in Villa D’Este and I saw this long table of what I took for American tourists,” describes Mantero of the rare sighting.” I spotted one of the men and thought: Wow, what a nice looking guy. He was wearing a shetland sweater without a collared shirt underneath and was chatting with his friends” It wasn’t until she glimpsed her mother’s breathless troupe of girlfriends squashed against the cafe’s windows did she realise who she giving the once-over to. “I’ve still never met him though,” she says with a grin, “at least not yet.”
Clooney, clearly, doesn’t know what he’s missing.
Lucia Mantero is Lake Como’s most likeable resident. With a springing fount of curls perennially pushed under a wide-brimmed hat she has the sparkling, energetic air of someone ready to jump into a vintage sports car and take you on a road trip a la Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso. As the fourth generation head of Mantero Seta, her family’s historic Como-based textile company, she’s also the behind-the-scenes muscle that brings all of La DoubleJ’s vintage-printed wonders into being. Since 2015, Mantero Seta has been the backbone of La DoubleJ Editions. Not only do they supply all the incredible vintage prints from their seemingly limitless pattern archive, they also produce all of our infinitely gorgeous Made in Italy textiles. “Without the expertise of Mantero, we could never make the beautifully printed fabrics we do,” adds JJ Martin, “they are remarkable on every level.”
Born in Como, but now based in Milan, Mantero splits her day between the two cities, zipping north each morning to her family’s the factory by the lake. On days off you can usually find her skipping around her adopted Milanese neighbourhood of Paolo Sarpi in an oversized tweed jacket, a wide brim hat and a La DoubleJ button down or dress plucked straight from the production line. “Lucia is the best kind of eclectic stylish Italian,” describes JJ, “she’s half country girl, half super chic Milanese and totally the perfect person to bring La DoubleJ to life.”
The roots of the collaboration between Mantero and Martin dates way back to when La DoubleJ was still just a twinkle in JJ’s eye. They met poolside 15 years ago at her father’s home on Lake Como when he summoned her there to meet the then new-to-town Martin. “He had the intuition that we would get along,” Mantero describes of the serendipitous introduction, “little did he know where we would end up!”
Years later, at the Salone del Mobile in April 2015, JJ approached her old friend with an offer she couldn’t refuse. “She said, ‘Lucia, we have to talk,’” Mantero retells of JJ’s first pitch to take vintage prints from the company’s historic archive — a sprawling textile repository that the finest Italian fashion houses turn to source patterns and find inspiration — and make a series of simple dresses using those designs. “Two weeks, later we were knee deep in our archive picking out prints.” The first collection, which launched that September at fashion week, consisted of 8 versions of a single dress — our now famous Swing — made in luscious Como silk and stunning vintage prints.
Of course, everything snowballed from there. “We would never be where we are without Mantero,” says JJ, “their faith, generosity and support is what allows La DoubleJ to thrive.”
The historic textile company, which celebrates its 126th birthday this year, was founded by Mantero’s great-grandfather, Riccardo Mantero, who moved from Piedmont to set up shop next to the lake. “My great-grandfather was very daring,” the fourth generation textile magnate explains. “The whole family has the spirit of entrepreneurship.” What started as a small silk mill grew throughout the years to encompass weaving, digital printing and the incredible archive, with each successive generation expanding slightly more. They now produce textiles for some of the biggest names in Italian and French fashion, their name synonymous with the finest Italian silks. “Our clients will not accept anything less than the very best,” Mantero explains of their dominance in the industry, “and with 116 years of experience, our textiles are unrivalled.”
As La DoubleJ grows, introducing new prints and products every season, Lucia Mantero stays one step ahead of the game. “I manage the projects from start to finish,” she explains of her pivotal role in bringing all of La DoubleJ’s designs to life, “from interpreting the prints JJ picks from the archive to supervising the atelier and the colour specialist, to following the textiles through production, right up until they’re ready to go out to the public.” The process, she admits, keeps her on her feet: “It’s amazing how much we’ve done in such a small time,” Mantero marvels on the speed in which La DoubleJ has expanded. From the original dress, DoubleJ has spawned an entire ready-to-wear line, tableware, furniture and accessories. “I would never have expected that only 3 years later we would already be here!”
– Laura Todd