It was March 21, 1911, and the city of Turin had never ever seen a woman dressed in such a fashion-forward way: in pants, that is.  One woman, so daring, had to seek refuge in a perfume shop, only to sneak out the back several hours later, after stirring such an unforgettable scandal.

Style according to Helen

The Dressing Screen’s brand ambassador Helen, grins when she reflects on how much fashion has changed in just 100 years.  Who knows what they would have thought of Helen and the nonchalant, unisex styles she selected for her trip to the Artissima exhibit, the nation’s main contemporary art fair.  For Helen, Turin’s Artissima fair is simply an event that could not be missed. With a wardrobe of clothing and accessories paying homage to the designers and brands from Turin, found thanks to the research of TDS, the fashion maven is ready to take on the regal city, the former capital of Italy that was once the
seat of the ruling House of Savoy.

Her soft cashmere blend sweater crafted with sculpted sleeves comes from Elisa Giordano, a one-of-a-kind label designed by an engineer who was born in 1983.  Her atelier was named Irreplaceable, an ironic moniker that unites her love for artisanal quality and high-end materials.  Irreplaceable’s ensembles are perfect to wear with a high-waisted 1950s era skirt from another “Savoy” brand named Le Globazine, whose unique pieces feature sartorial volumes, researched materials and vintage buttons, an assortment that captivates Helen from the first try.

The accessories: a bucket bag, ideal for the city, from Amira bags, a line of classic-chic leather goods that are entirely made in Italy by expert artisans — a perfect match to wear with mules from Gia Couture and her go-to bespoke turbans from Altalen. It’s a versatile look, also for lunch among friends in the historic setting of the Ristorante Del Cambio, a local culinary shrine founded in 1754 and well known for its historic patrons such as key figures from Italy’s Unification: Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour.

After this gourmand pause, Helen goes back to her hotel (the NH Hotel Torino in Piazza Carlina) to get dressed for a walk in the city.   NH Hotel Torino is also her favourite breakfast place in the city. Its walls are decorated with works by Turin-native Carol Rama. It’s examples like these that highlight Turin’s ties to art and history, as well as the literary world.  The Liberia Internazionale Luxemburg is the oldest bookstore in the city.  Opened in 1872, il Clarin, the Argentinian newspaper once chronicled it as the most famous bookstore after Paris’ Shakespeare & Co.

It is here that Helen finally finds a book she’s been searching for: “The Sartorialist: X”, the third volume of the trilogy of street style bibles by Scott Schuman, the celebrated photographer who is known as “The Sartorialist”. It’s in that moment that Helen remembers having read a quote by Schuman in an interview about Turin. “It’s a place where one can discover your country. Turin is not invaded by tourists like Venice or Florence. Here, in its city streets, you find the real Italy.”

Looking through the new book, Helen dons a striped mariner sweater by Irreplaceable paired with Gia Couture shoes, an item that is a staple in her wardrobe. Those who know her well, know that navy stripes are simply her favorite.

When Fashion turns into Art: Nasco Unico

Making the best of her stay in Turin, Helen makes her way to a designer that is dear to TDS: Andrea Francardo, the soul behind the Nasco Unico blazer brand.  Andrea was one of the first designers to support The Dressing Screen and its founders Claudia and Stefania and makes Helen understand the passion she brings to everything.

“It all started with my father. He was a great fashion entrepreneur. It’s a world I have in my blood. After years of consulting for various brands… and then with the arrival of my second child, I invented a career that allowed me to return to my passion: outerwear. In Nasco Unico I carry all my love for this profession, as each garment is a couture piece where personalisation is paramount. And so my models are worked in one piece, mostly with quality materials recovered from various other fabrics, even in small quantities: with smaller pieces, I cover buttons, I make borders, or I do linings under-collars…nothing, in my sustainable vision, should be thrown away. I always say send back every leftover!”

Helen Nonini for The Dressing Screen

Over her wool and cashmere sweater made by Alyki (a new Italian brand specialising in cashmere and natural fiber women’s knitwear), Helen is wearing a Nasco Unico blazer, chosen by The Dressing Screen. And it is in that moment that Andrea proposes a new one to her — showing her the infinite possible combinations and ways to customise it.

“It’s not only the classic lining, but also the threads of the seams, the contrasting lapels or the covered buttons. Added gems like a pocket square, gold initials to be sewn into the jacket or phrases to be embroidered on the sleeve. There are also appliqué  patches: the latter are created by nuns with ex-voto designs with hidden pockets to hide a ticket or a message.”

Helen Nonini for The Dressing Screen

Enchanted by such mastery, Helen thinks about what she can wear with such a jacket. She opts for moccasins by Paola D’Arcano, a designer known for her shoes, works of art adored by The Dressing Screen but also by Helen herself, who finds her (very modern) retro models irresistible. One in velvet with a buckle and a heel, strikes the perfect balance between a carefree masculine spirit and feminine romanticism.

Not only Art and Style: Charity Programs

In anticipation of her new blazer, Helen cannot resist the idea of buying a model in pied-de-poule wool (paired with her beloved velvet shoes topped with a bow by Gia Couture). As she gears up for a dinner with Andrea, organised by a common friend, Virginia Galateri, a style icon from Turin who is expecting her third child, Virginia tells Helen of her latest experience as an ambassador for the Unicef Next Generation project: a group of over thirty young people who will use their knowledge, professionalism and skills to allow UNICEF to reach more teenagers and children through education, health and protection programs. Helen welcomes this news with great interest, telling Virginia in return, of her involvement with the Istituto Mario Negri to which  5% of The Dressing Screen’s sales are destined to finance scientific research of the Istituto Mario Negri, which Helen has supported for over a year.

The time has come to return to Milan but not before a healthy stop at an herbal medicine store called L’Erboristeria Melissa (a place recommended by her Milanese friend and TDS icon Luisa Bertoldo). A reference address for those  who cannot do without eco cosmetics and herbs, whilst immersing themselves in the artistic atmosphere times gone by that make this store simply fabulous.

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