PHOTOGRAPHY HANS FONK | TEXT PAULINE PRINSEN

The house is, in fact, a large, tall box with various spaces arranged around it. The interior is an exuberant reflection of her predilection for colour and passion for collecting. Here, in the heart of Milan, Veronica Etro lives with her husband Alessandro and young son Filippo. She belongs to an exceptional Italian family which pursues a highly personal course in the worlds of fashion and interior design. That eclectic unconventionality is also apparent in her interior.

The apartment in the heart of Milan, Italy is, in fact, a large box executed in the basic colours of black and white. In other words, a good starting point for a cheerful, comfortable interior. And that was no doubt Veronica Etro’s idea when they moved here in 2002. The street-side facade betrays nothing of what lies beyond. A large gateway accesses a covered passage containing typically Italian scooters, and ends at a double door, painted black. This is the entrance to the apartment.

The premises exude history, both industrial and cultural: formerly they housed a woodworking company producing parquet. Planks were brought in through the back door, which today is infilled with glass blocks. When the parquet company left, a car-repair and body shop took over the premises. After that a sculptress lived and worked here for quite some time. And in 2002 Veronica moved in. “I haven’t actually changed much in the basic structure. The floors were black marble, and I’ve kept it. However, I have created greater transparency, which means that almost every room looks onto the central living space. And I had air conditioning installed.” The central, tall box is the hub of the space. Skylights recall the building’s former industrial use and permit a glimpse of the lush roof garden.

At the back of the box an open steel staircase leads to the first floor with the master bedroom, the son’s room and the bathroom. From the master bedroom a second staircase accesses the roof garden. In an alcove at the back of the living area there is a dining-table, spray-painted in purple, with a motley of chairs in a variety of styles arranged around it. “I like to mix styles together. When I see a nice chair, I buy it and combine with what I already have. Similarly, the dining plates are all different, as are the placemats and the cutlery.”

The dining room flows into the kitchen and, on the other side, into a large walk-in closet where Veronica has arranged her lavish collection of shoes and clothing. Here, too, colour prevails – her shoe closet resembles an overflowing aviary of tropical birds. The furnishing of the apartment reflects the ambience of the Etro brand itself: humour combined with quality. “I love space and in the neutral box, which basically the apartment is, you can play with colours to your heart’s content. I tend to buy attractive things all over the world to put in my home. There, I combine that collection with the antique pieces my parents have given me”, was Veronica’s explanation.

Members of the Etro family would seem to be born with the flexibility of mind to create unexpected, new combinations with colour and form – something that has taken the Etro brand to the international top in the fields of clothing and furnishing fabrics. Subtlety and style are fused convincingly together, with quality and the merits of Italian culture serving as a guideline for the future. ‘Fun’ is the underlying value that pervades in all the company’s activities.

Gimmo Etro, the father, put the Etro company on the map when he launched his collections of silk, cashmere and cotton fabrics for the fashion world in 1968. From the start, the style was sophisticated, as evidenced by the colours and designs. The fabrics found their way to the leading fashion designers of the day. And that set the tone. It is interesting to note that, even when successful, the Etros did not stand still, but sought time and again to go on to something new.

Gimmo’s sons and daughter have the same attitude. Within the family constellation, son Jacopo is responsible for all the interior design and home furnishings activities, son Ken is the designer of men’s fashions, art director, and responsible, with his father, for the corporate image, while daughter Veronica is the creative driving force behind the women’s fashion collection, and son Ippolito is in charge of finances. The headquarters of these activities is housed in a large Art Nouveau building in Via Spartaco in the centre of Milan which also contains the large library.

Today Etro stores are found throughout the world, in almost every de-luxe shopping mall and at triple-A locations for luxury goods. This sounds like is a story of self-evident evolution of quality and creativity, but that is too romantic an interpretation of the Etro brand. It takes hard work to convert creativity into products – lots of hard work – and Etro is no exception to that rule. Veronica Etro spoke about her own collections: “Every season we have to come up with another surprising collection. It’s a tremendous amount of work that I couldn’t possibly do on my own, but fortunately I work with a group of people who trust one another. The making of a collection is teamwork, the best of which, for me, is the creative part, particularly the very start of a new line”.

OBJEKT©International Issue Nr. 36