Milan is full of hidden surprises. In fact, there is so much wonder embedded in its rich architectural landscape that it’s easy to miss a masterpiece. Helen walks around the city admiring the buildings that
surround her, taking in every peculiarity. One cannot pass the city’s Duomo without getting lost in its Gothic details. A vessel of discovery, hidden gems like the splendid clock of Palazzo della Veneranda (also called Palazzo dell’Orologio) are almost hidden in the same piazza. Build atop the palace in 1866 and designed by Giuseppe Vandoni, it is flanked by statues of two women who represent day and night. If the first shields her face from the sun, the other bears a sleepy expression .
This is just one of the details that takes Helen’s breath away, after leaving Luisa at the T’a bistro, as she crosses the center to meet another style maven, in the intimate setting of a classic Milanese home. Alessia Fattori Franchini, entrepreneur and communication expert is a reference point for fashion and lifestyle companies. Over the years, Helen and Alessia have bonded over social events, as well as lunches and intimate dinners. Following a day full of appointments, Alessia welcomes Helen for a dinner with friends, on the terrace of her home — a cradle of art and design, where Helen can finally relax and chat, after a full, yet fulfilling day.
A fashion insider, Alessia is always on the lookout for insight on new brands and star designers to incorporate into her already winning wardrobe of fine, tasteful garments. After introducing her to the
world of The Dressing Screen, Alessia has in fact, already pinpointed a few new brands that will stir a buzz.
“Italian style for me is creativity, elegance and quality: the handmade, the passion for details and tasteful approach that is rooted in well-defined cultural codes. When Helen asked me to support The Dressing Screen project, I had no doubt — it’s an incubator of Made in Italy brands that embody Italian excellence, that in addition, also donates 5% of its proceeds to the Istituto Mario Negri. It’s truly a virtuous circle,” enthused Alessia, before showing Helen her new outfit, which she chose because it is ironic and iconic at the same time, just like her.
A long, Stephan Janson Scottish wool dress is a testament to how this Milanese designer, one of Helen’s favourites, has a flair for elegant styles, no matter what season it is — even when working with winter materials. In-line with the jovial allure of Alessia’s ensemble, she opts for the Bandana Girl pumps by Gia Couture, a Florentine brand that infuses classic styles with rich textures such as velvet, this time in a hypnotic swirls of marine blue and mustard yellow.
The two discuss which bag is the perfect accompaniment for an upbeat cocktail occasion. They decide on a purse from Pescepazzo. Its designer, Laura, a Sicilian from Taormina has incorporated all the practical creativity of the Sicilian coffa (a traditional basket woven by hand) into models made of velvet or entirely adorned with soft ostrich feathers. The result is really a juxtaposition of simplicity and ultra glam. They pinpoint a vibrant ice color model adorned with feathers to match Alessia’s already colorful outfit. The two reflect on how the name of a brand can create, on its own, an entire world. Pescepazzo in fact, embodies the inspiration and the joy of Sicily.
Helen, who instead, opts for a feminine blouse by Virtuosa Muse, has no doubts. A name that conjures harmonious sensuality, this Southern Italian brand of handmade garments is an example of the excellence in craftsmanship and tailoring from the region of Puglia — a craft that has been handed down over time and evolved into modern styles made of silks and chiffon.
A sculptural blouse which blends perfectly with extravagant accessories. Helen in fact chooses a pair of Gia Couture Cowboy boots that are a perfect twist of ironic elegance paired with jeans. Once again, it is a Virginia Severini clutch that intrigues her. The Perugian designer who purveys work of transportable art and is inspired by the magic of the decorative arts. It’s the sort of artisanal quality that is at the core of The Dressing Screen. Unique features like wood carving designs and jewellery techniques make each creation unique and difficult to imitate. Geometric sculptures in wood or copper, glazed in dazzling colours render the designer’s small clutches tiny works of art. Helen, who prefers minimal charm to excess, is sure of one thing… these are not just for her objects but are also indicative of her own creativity.