Elisabetta Franchi

Elisabetta Franchi (Bolognese, born in 1968) has no doubt about the reasons of her success, which she claims she owes to a mix of “consistency, perseverance and dogged determination. When Forbes published its list of The 100 successful Italian Women in 2020, which I am part of, they titled the article The Gentle Side of Success. And I thought: not so gentle. But we – women – love that you believe that.”

L’Officiel Italia: How did you start in the business?

Elisabetta Franchi: I grew up within a modest family, with no father but a strong mother. I worked hard, from morning until night. It is all in my documentary and the book titled “Cenerentola ti ho fottuto”. In the highbrow Nineties, when the media became interested in my story, people would tell me to hide my origins and make up a more glamorous past. Until one day, I was invited to give a talk at The Sapienza University, in Rome, and spent a sleepless night ahead of the event thinking ‘Shall I tell the truth or shall I create a lie?’ I opted for the truth and saw many students moved to tears. Starting from that, I said ‘Enough with Photoshop’; a choice that pays off: I have no haters and I believe it’s important to send a strong, positive message to those who feel disheartened and did not have it lucky in life. But, let us go back to how I got into the business. As a young woman, I worked as a barista and as a shop assistant; although I knew I wanted to work in fashion from the age of seven. I even started my vocational course in fashion design and pattern making at the Istituto Rubbiani in Bologna, but we were penniless and had to stop halfway. Then I started working as a shop assistant at a lingerie shop and that is where I developed my business acumen. To be an entrepreneur, you need two brains: a business one and a creative one. Creativity-wise, I went for the Helmut Newton woman. While, from a business point of view, I joined a fast-fashion company where I learned about speed at a time when many leading brands were still unware of its strategic importance. Then I opened my atelier.

LOI: What are some of your favourite items you have created?

EF: I have been designing coatdresses since the very beginning. To me a woman that gives the impression of wearing an overcoat when she is in fact wearing a dress is the embodiment of femininity. I received the best compliment for my style by the CEO of Golden Goose when we met for the first time: “When I see a woman that I want to undress…she is always wearing Elisabetta Franchi.

LOI: Do you believe in such idea as a ‘female gaze’ in fashion?

EF: Who better than a woman can understand the female body? How to approach the hips, the cut of the armhole…I can always recognise the Elisabetta Franchi woman on the street.

LOI: Do you have role models? Whom do you get your inspiration from?

EF: My role model has always been Diana Vreeland: an ugly duckling but she had culture and talent, which made her an extraordinarily alluring woman. Then the work of Ellen Von Unwerth and Helmut Newton: I have their photographs spread across the house, despite the kids…

LOI: Earlier you mentioned how understanding the need to produce quickly turned out to be strategically instrumental to your success…

EF: At the beginning, that was undoubtedly the case. But recently, the pace had become pure madness. Despite the struggle, I was keeping to that system, producing both a main ready-to-wear and cruise line for a total of five collections every season. Now I agree with Giorgio Armani: we must slow down. I believe that that pace deprives fashion of its allure, that social media can blow the life of a garment and that all this shallow consumerism has to end. Personally, I will slow down: garments need to remain on the shop floor and not be there for a short blast.

LOI: You are a passionate advocate for animal rights. Is that true?

EF: Both my company and I are animal-rights and cruelty-free advocates. We do not use angora wool, fur and goose down. Moreover, we support several initiatives engaged in the fight against the mistreatment and the abandonment of animals.