Fashion designer Sara Battaglia loves a bit of flash. Known for her riotous, rainbow-bedecked handbags and equally slick clothing collection, this Milanese local is something of a style savant. In fashion circles (and to her legions of adoring Instagram followers) she’s one half of the #batsisters duo (elder Giovanna is fashion editor at Vogue Japan), the street style tour-de-force that has watchers wondering what kind of sartorial magic runs through the fabled Battaglia DNA. But the younger Battaglia is far more than just her fashion week looks. Her inimitable eye for tone and detail has seen her line of clothing and handbags shoot to the top of Milan’s must-have list since its debut six years ago.
“I design for women who want to be glamorous all day,” Battaglia says of the inspiration behind her eponymous line, “you shouldn’t have to wait for a cocktail party to be fabulous.” And wait, Battaglia does not. All tumbling ginger curls, signature ruby red lips and ice-blue eyes, her look is an updated mix of pin-up silhouettes cleverly played off the primmer side of 50s styling go-tos: ruffled button ups, fitted bodices and voluminous skirts are worn, chicly, with micro crop tops and sassy leather minis. More than just a passing interest in anachronism, Battaglia views the 50s as a formidable time for women’s wardrobes — and a great source of inspiration for her work. “The women in the 50s were so feminine, so avant-garde.”
The midcentury-minded designer has clearly done her research. Soaring bookshelves in her 30s-era apartment risk toppling over under the weight of decades worth of dog-eared vintage fashion tomes, their thick piles of pages interrupted by scores of improvised bookmarks. Perhaps Battaglia’s true genius lays in her uncanny ability to pluck techniques and forms from bygone eras without the stuffiness of reproduction. A sophisticated pleated cape, for example, in her S/S 2017 collection could have been ripped straight out of a fluttering debutante ball half a century ago, but with Battaglia’s inborn knack for styling and color, it reads thoroughly modern.
This enviable trait, it’s clear, reigns full force in her sprawling Milan abode. Tucked away in the buzzing Porta Venezia neighborhood, hers is one of those silently majestic streets that stoically upholds the city’s reputation as a residential wonderland. “I’ve loved the street since I was little girl,” she describes of the initial pull to the quintessentially Milanese locale. And what’s not to love? All along the quiet viale, writhing stone cherubs cling to the walls of ancient apartment buildings and requisite waterfalls of jasmine and creeping vines spill over edges of secretive, shaded balconies. Cloistered behind thick, ornately fashioned wooden doors her Art Deco-era apartment is an oasis. Granted, an oasis of mixed-up vintage furniture, cheeky art and design pieces (many of them gifts from her gallerist brother) and closets upon closets of covetable designer clothes and shoes.
“When I saw the bar,” Battaglia declares, of the red lacquer built-in number complete with mirrored walls and red velvet stools, “I knew the flat had to be mine.” It’s easy to imagine Battaglia behind the wood, cocktail shaker in hand, orchestrating a swinging soiree for her inner circle of fashionable friends. But she insists it’s not a party pad. “I’ve only had one, maybe two, dinner parties since I moved in.” The well appointed apartment conveniently caters to the quieter life as well. A red marble soaker tub in the master bathroom has, Battaglia admits, “added a few extra minutes to my morning routine.”
For the fashion frenzied, the flat does not disappoint. Miles of Alaia, Miu Miu and Prada pumps line the walls, mingling with rough-and-ready Dr. Marten combat boots and lived in Gucci loafers. Vintage Gaultier — which she collects — rubs shoulders with neatly tailored dresses from the 50s and 60s and straight off the runway Junya Watanabe. Inside a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk she uses as a coffee table a veritable treasure trove of accessories are discovered: gold and glittery costume jewelry sits side-by-side oversized baubles and novelty sunglasses. It’s so much a fabulous fashion playground, Battaglia even operates it as a showroom for her collection during fashion week. “We transform it,” she describes of her intimate presentations, “move the sofas, add mannequins and — voila — it’s a handbag parlor.”
Asked about her goals for the future in the tough fashion industry, Battaglia doesn’t mince words about her planned ascent. “I’m like a little fish in the ocean with sharks right now,” she laughs in response, “but, soon enough, I’ll be a shark as well.”
– Laura Todd