DESIGN CONNECTED WITH TRADITIONAL ITALIAN CRAFT

 
 
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Ilaria Didaio

FASHION DESIGNER, ETRO - Milan, de Angeli area
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Thank you so much Ilaria for welcoming us in your house. How long have you been living here?

My partner Davide and I had been looking for a new accommodation for a long time. We wanted a more spacious house that ideally was close to Piazza Piemonte. After viewing dozens of houses, we finally managed to find one that fit our needs and we moved two years ago.


What essential characteristics you had in mind while looking for a new house that made choose this one?

Many aspects made us lean towards this choice. First, the square footage and the arrangement of the various living-areas, then the quietness of the space – an aspect that has become very important to me and I could no longer live without it, especially considering that I did not have that in my previous houses. Finally, the aesthetics since we love the architectural styles of the 40s and its ability to merge harmoniously straight and curved lines.


How would you describe the style?

It is difficult to trace back a specific style because the furniture pieces belong to different eras and styles, from the late 17th-century French and Italian candelabra to the living room furniture dating back to the 50s, which include Scandinavian design sideboards and chairs. Personally, I do not think I could ever live in a place with only one predominant style, I would find it monotonous and far from my idea of home. I would rather rely on my personal taste by collecting and selecting furniture and objects that then make up the general ‘flavour’ of the ambience. If I had to choose only one word to describe this house, I would go for a more imaginative and creative idea of a ship, not only metaphorically but also due to the shape of the building, the long balconies that run through the sides, the blue colour palette that characterises the interior and for the warmth that comes from the teak furniture. I even have an antique marine lamp belonging to an English ship transport!


 
 

There is often a divergence between what we imagine as our ideal home and what we actually choose to live in. Many people, for instance, love minimalist style, but often find it uninhabitable and therefore, opt for other arrangements. Has your experience been similar?

I like to think of a house as something primal that has more value than just simply a delimited portion of space. I see it as a microcosm, a container of souls and intimate objects that reflects the people living in it. Minimalist style houses, with their repetitive shapes and colours, bore me because they bring to mind a stereotypical homogenised idea of communal space, this could not be further from my idea of private space.


 
 
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Compared to the other rooms, the kitchen has a more a functional look, I would say it is almost industrial. Was this an aesthetic choice or the result of functionality?

Both of them. We wanted a functional kitchen with essential design that would fit in the small space. We had the kitchen worktop and the stainless steel cabinet custom-made by an industrial furniture designer; they are commonly used in restaurants because they are practical and functional.


Since we are talking about kitchen, who does the cooking? You or your partner?

Both of us, and like typical Italians we love good food! It is fair to say that my boyfriend spends more time cooking while I really enjoy preparing pudding and sweets.


One of the most striking features, when entering the house, is undoubtedly the colour of the walls: they are very dark. Certainly, a bold choice but that most people would avoid. Was this a natural decision or the source of a long discussion between the two of you?

We had promised ourselves that we were going to use colour on the walls of the new house. The inspiration came from visiting various museums abroad and how the colours on the walls are often used to enhance the peculiarity of certain artworks. In our situation, however, it was not intended as a trick to infuse a certain mood - which, by the way, works – but rather an aesthetic choice in relation to the natural light that enters the house. We are very pleased with the final effect: the light is like absorbed by the colour on the walls and it creates a discrete and delicate aura in the house.


We can see also the presence of vintage pieces. Among them, the beautiful red table with chairs and the long wooden sideboard. Which sources do you use when searching for these pieces?

One of them is definitely visiting antiques markets, both in Italy and occasionally abroad, this has been one of our regular weekly activities for many years. It is a real compulsion for interior design as well as for clothes and jewellery. Every occasion and place becomes a chance to discover something new. We also inherited other pieces or were given as gifts, like the table you mentioned before.


 
 

Can you tell us about your background and for how long you have been working in the fashion industry?

I have been fascinated by the fashion world since I was a child so, after I completed my studies at the Liceo artistico (artistic lyceum), where I learnt the basics in drawing, I enrolled at the Marangoni Institute in Milan, of which I have fond memories. It was a stimulating period, I was so eager to learn that I began working in the field during my second year while I was still attending the lessons. I did not want to waste any time. I have been working in this field for 12 years now.


 
 
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In your CV there are many and diverse designers such as, Helmut Lang, Costume National, Jean Paul Gautier Jeans and Etro. From the outside, it might seem difficult to make your own and convey such different styles and images. Is that so?

There are different points of view on this topic. For me it is not that hard. There are some brands that are more similar to your personal tastes and that makes it easier to create and propose designs….here is probably where the challenge is: it is harder to make your own a product that does not come from you or that you do not like. Over the years, I have understood that I am more fascinated by the “ugliness”, I find it very stimulating to work towards altering the perception of “ugliness”!


Do you have a specific creative process when you design clothes? Do you start, for instance, from the fabric, from the colours palettes, from a particular iconographic theme o from other aspects?

I do not have a predefined method because every project has its own identity, especially when we are talking about “creative moment”. I like changing my approach to work depending on collection that I have to create. Sometimes I start from a type of fabric or from a vintage garment, other times from an picture or a film. I go from periods of total creative block to moments of hyperactivity in which I work until late at night. I work instinctively until I think the work is completed. After this, I reorganise everything and I try my best to convey the message in an organised and effective way.


Milan has a truly unique and distinct identity compared to other Italian cities. How would you describe it to someone who has never visited it?

I would like to use a quote of Carlo Castellaneta that I think is perfect for Milan: “There are cities of obvious beauty that give themselves over to everyone and others that are hidden and love to be discovered.” I would not add anything more!


To contact Ilaria, please visit her Linkedin profile here.