The Financial Times
Published: July 12 2008
Designer Elio Fiorucci, 72, imported Italy’s first miniskirts from London’s Carnaby Street in the 1960s and went on to establish new fashion paradigms in the 1970s and 1980s. His New York, Milan and Beverly Hills shops were magnets for hip artists such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, singer Madonna and architects Ettore Sottsass. He lives in Milan.
Which is your favourite place or home?
I was born in Milan but during the [second world] war we evacuated to my mother’s hometown near Lake Como. I spent my formative years there. I think the imprinting we receive when we are small stays with us for ever. Later we built a country house in the same town. It is stone and wood; very Swiss. I am happier there than in Milan. When I think of happiness, I never think of a city. Happiness is in simplicity; a house in the country, the smell of plants and animals.
That’s not what might be expected of a pillar of urban style.
I don’t choose and I don’t limit myself. Selecting is like subtracting. I am as happy in a Philippe Starck hotel as in a traditional luxury one. I am curious to experience it all. I like wood houses in Nantucket as much as modern glass and steel. I love plants and nature but I also love Andy Warhol and high-tech design. Nothing scares me.
What is your approach to your homes?
I confess I’ve never dedicated much energy to houses. I have always lived as if I were in a hotel. I could be a gypsy. I am not attached to objects. I care about what I carry inside of me, such as the memory of how the wind feels. Other people get attached to their grandmother’s chair. I don’t understand it.
There isn’t much “Fiorucci style” in your house – fluorescent colours, gnomes, angels, radical kitsch . . .
People don’t necessarily live in houses that reflect their style. The Fiorucci style is based on my experiences and travels. It is connected to work more than home. Everything that we do – right now we are using a lot of pink – is connected to research for work.
I don’t have schemes. I like white a lot. It is a good base for other colours. Anything colourful shows up better against white.
Some designers’ houses “represent” their style.
That is one type of vision; to choose a world and live it constantly. I find the houses of some famous fashion designers almost unliveable. They’re like embassies or official showpieces more than places to live, invite friends, watch television. I would not have a house that represents the Fiorucci style. It would be something out of Walt Disney. The Fiorucci style doesn’t lend itself to houses.
What is a Fiorucci house like, then?
Lots of glass, air. Light is fundamental. So is the panorama. I have sun here all day. If I have a view, I am never sad. I wonder how people can live in certain dark countries; it’s so sad. How can you wake up when it’s dark – like in Scandinavia? If I am in a closed room and I go outdoors, it puts me right. For me, the ideal thing would be to live like a friend who spends winter in Argentina and summer in Europe.
What plants and animals do you love?
In London and Paris we had gardens. It isn’t a home unless there is green. This apartment overlooks Milan’s public garden. I cultivate salvia plants in pots on my terrace. They are Mexican and are pollinated by bees, which my terrace is full of. I discovered this kind of salvia at an annual garden fair in Milan 10 years ago. I go every day when it is on. I also have a special night jasmine. It grows in southern Italy but I got it from a friend in Ibiza.
If you could choose anywhere to live, where would it be?
I would repeat something from my childhood in the Alpine foothills of Valtellina; the summer transhumance. We gradually moved cow and goat herds from town in the valley up to higher pastures, ending in the pure air of the peak – 1,200 metres – in August. I think this joy in life is a real luxury. Living the changes of the seasons is a luxury.
What are you doing now?
We recently bought land to build a house near our current one. We courted the owners for 20 years. The building site is very high and is near where Lake Como narrows. You can see the entire lake from it; it’s breathtaking.
Who is designing the new house?
I am, with my brother and a friend – both architects. I love building things. It will be glass and wood and feel like a greenhouse. There will be a garden with fruit trees. There is plenty of sun for solar panels and wood for fuel. It will have one storey and a glass wall. With a southern orientation, it will be a semi-circle with a big patio in the middle, facing the view. There is a lot of wind there – I like wind. The patio will be protected so you can sit outside in a chaise and hear the wind. Or you can stay inside with a fire. You don’t need anything else. That is happiness. People who don’t have these simple things aren’t happy. I have friends who spend money on crazy things like watches. But they are unhappy anyway.
Will you put a gnome in your new garden?
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