HELLO FASHION RUSSIA, JUNE 2018
HELLO! FASHION GREECE – INTERVIEW – SUMMER 2018
MADE IN ITALY
ELISABETTA FRANCHI speaks to HELLO! FASHION
BY ARIS KAVATZIKIS
PHOTOS: MATTIA BETTINELLI, SPLASH/ IDEAL IMAGE, CLOTHES & ACCESSORIES: ELISABETTA FRANCHI
Flowing see-through fabrics combined with theatrical hats, rich bows and harmoniously alternating colors, define an irresistible femininity through modernizing the classics.
We met her at the Grand Resort Lagonissi. She loves the sea and nature. She is strong, but very human. She loves women, for whom she designs her collections, but also animals, since she refuses the use of fur in her pieces, while many animal lovers would love to work in her company, as employees at her headquarters in Bologna are allowed to bring their four-legged friends to work. With women like Amal Clooney and Angelina Jolie wearing her creations often, Franchi is proof of never giving up, not even when facing a very important loss.
It is your first time in Greece. What do you know about our country?
Particularly about the financial crisis which you are going through, and which fell upon you like a strong typhoon. You have been front-page news globally, but you are fighters and you are struggling to overcome this. It is important for me to know what goes on in places where I open stores, and I have a very important representative here, Mrs. Pagoni. I don't want to go into details, but I know that the "happiest" place in Greece right now is Myconos.
It's like we are talking about another country.
Yes, I understand. Mykonos is a different world in itself.
When was your first contact with fashion? Who would you say was your first client?
I come from a humble family. So I only had one doll. I used to walk around with scissors in my hand, trying to find something I could cut, so that I can make clothes for this one and only doll. Later, in high school, although my clothes were modest, I was always looking for that one detail which could make my outfit unique. I believe I was born with a gift, which I realized very early on. So even though I did not have the right tools, I searched for them. So, my first client was my poor doll. What I put her through!
What type of woman chooses to wear Elisabetta Franchi?
A woman who is a fighter, and also feminine and sensual. I love women who do not refuse their nature. A woman can be sensual without going to extremes. We were born as women and we must move forward based on our merit.
Even though we live in a time when femininity almost stands 'accused'?
Especially now after the sexual harassment scandals. I believe there are two types of women. The fighter, one that succeeded in gaining power and sits behind her desk at the same level as a man, and the one who prefers to open a 'side' door, which is easier. These two types of women still exist in men's minds. But I also believe that in our world there is also the beautiful woman who tries to prove that she is not only pretty, but smart and capable for high positions. Essentially, the starting point is men's insecurity. If a normal woman sits at a man's desk, she is accepted. If she is not just normal, but prettier, she is not accepted. It is a phallocratic philosophy that belongs in past centuries, which apparently man still carry within them. Today, I believe that women give important fights, we show our teeth, even when wearing a tight dress, and the world is moving to the right direction. It is indeed a difficult period, but women prevail at a great rate.
What is the most difficult thing you had to face until today?
The death of my husband in 2008. He passed away within four months. It was not only difficult personally, but also professionally, since I was called to handle what someone would call a "man's job". I armed myself with strength and today I am the creative director of a House with a 110-million-euro turnover, and also run the business side of the company. I could be designing a tight skirt one moment, and the next going down a flight of stairs to look at balance sheets. In other words, I found myself continuing alone something we started together. I stayed quiet, put on my suit, and in these four months I started doing everything he did. And I still continue to this day.
Did you remarry?
No, but for eight years now I have a partner with whom I have a son, while I also have a daughter with my husband. My partner happens to be my first fiancée, whom I had left at the time for my husband!
Like an American movie!
Indeed, like a soap opera. When he found out I was a widow, he had just separated and came to look for me, because he still had feelings for me - I was his great love- but left him for another man.
Doesn't he work at the Elisabetta Franchi business?
Not at all! He does completely different things. And, while I am at the office I am a designer, a business woman, a thousand different things, when I get home I am a partner and a mother. I never speak about work. And when, sometimes, I complain: "Allan, I am a bit stressed tonight", he brings me back at once, telling me "You are not at work!"
How come you chose to live in Bologna?
It is my city, I was born there, it is the land that transfers to me massive doses of energy. Our headquarters are in Bologna, a space of 7.000 s.m., admittedly very beautiful. Right in the middle of nature. I don't want to turn my back to my DNA, to who I am, and to where I came from. Strategically, Milan certainly is a fashion capital, and I have a wonderful five-floors showroom there, but the Elisabetta Franchi collections are born in Bologna. Anyway, the center of Milan is only 45' away by fast train.
Is nature important to you?
Very! I want to be able to touch the earth wherever I live. Imagine that in my main house in Bologna, my bedroom was on the first floor initially. When I renovated it, I moved the bedroom to the ground floor. I even built a glass construction, so that, when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I am in a garden. In the morning, the song of the birds gets me "drunk", it's like drinking ginseng. I am totally bound to earth, I feel that if you put me in a city I would become like an dead battery.
Where do you draw the inspiration for your collections?
This is a question I get often, and I never know what to say. You do not become a designer because you go to some school. At school you learn history of fashion and design, but you can not learn what cannot be described by words but is a natural gift. You either have it, or you don't! There are days when I cannot even draw one dot on paper, and there are other days that I cannot even keep up with everything I have in my mind. Four leaves I see falling from a tree might open an entire world to me. For someone else they are just four fallen leaves, to me they are a journey. Whenever I create, I put on my headphones, and listen to my favorite music. Music is my "drug". I put on my headphones and enter my own world. If it is about the world of Evita Perόn, I become Evita Perόn (ed.n. she designed a collection inspired by the woman-symbol of Argentina). If we are talking about the Spring-Summer 2018 collection, I am immersed deeply into 1800, when women wore big skirts and ankle boots, while for last Winter's collection I was Monica Vitti.
Each one of your collections has its soundtrack. Right?
Exactly! (laughs) And when the time of the fashion show comes, I already know which songs will be playing on the runway.
Have you ever had to design a collection where you found yourself desperate for inspiration?
Not exactly. But there is a stage when you don't know if what you have imagined and designed can be implemented. It is like going on a journey, but you don't believe it until you get to your destination. There is a suspense in this process. Until the pieces arrive, and I do the fitting and say "we've got it".
You spoke of Evita Perόn. What women do you admire?
Women with a capital W. Perόn, despite her humble heritage, did not become the wife of the president of Argentina, but Evita Perόn. Women who are distinguished because they are born with something inside de them. There are today three women whom I love a lot. Amal Clooney, a woman with guts, a distinguished lawyer, with recognizable class and magestic style. Angelina Jolie, mainly because of the way she progressed. From a rebel-girl who made her own mistakes, to a mother of six children, fighting as an UNHCR good-will ambassador, and of course wearing anything with class. And there is also a third, who I always follow, and that is Victoria Beckham. I like to dig deep into people's personalities. Beckham was a member of one of the most famous 90's groups, the Spice Girls, but in an interview at the time she had revealed that this wasn't her life, she didn't feel happy when she got on stage to sing. This was not her, she wanted to be backstage and not on stage. And today she has proved what she really is: a great mom, and a fantastic fashion designer. She brought her desire forward, she is brave.
Clooney and Jolie have worn your clothes many times. Have you met them?
No! I am pleased that they choose to wear my clothes, because I love them, not only form who they are, but for what they represent. She is not Mrs. Clooney, she is Amal. Very strong personalities. When these personalities wear "me", then yes, I am pleased to the maximum.
What do you dream about?
I'm a big dreamer. I dream that God gives me enough time to enjoy life. I love life, and having lived through such personal bereavement, I always have the fear that something bad might suddenly happen. I dream about living as much as possible.
Is there something that is Elisabetta Franchi by definition?
Sensuality. Wherever I am, if I spot a woman who projects her femininity, I discover afterwards that she wears Elisabetta Franchi. I know that a sensual woman will have at least one or two of my pieces in her closet.
You are a dynamic strong woman. One can tell so immediately. Are you also romantic?
Yes... Today, we usually only look at the glamour of a successful person, without wondering what the cost was to get to the top, and how he got there. Indeed, there are lucky people who succeeded without anyone understanding why. But most times, people who made it to the top and maintained their position, have a sense of what it means to have responsibility, to use a sacrifice, and to work hard. Since many young girls follow me on social media, I try to communicate to them that behind Elisabetta Franchi there isn't just a pretty house, a nice car, and the runway, but a woman who started from zero, went through hard times, and climbed uphill. If she is here today, it is because of a gift, but also because of sacrifices, strength, and will. Young people today believe that everything is easy and they want to get to the top without sacrifices. We must explain to them that nothing is easy. Not for the football player who must score each Sunday, not for the singer who has to perform live. There's always the backstage, everything we do not see.
HOLLYWOOD LOVES ELISABETTA FRANCHI
The designer's creative obsession with dresses has landed her among the first spots of design rankings among international stars. Floral details, the predominant white, and the superiority of minimalism are her trademarks.
The designer is photographed wearing her own creation, at the new shop within Eponymo at Golden Hall- the brand is characterized by feminine elegance and luxury.