Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda ambassador on couture fashion and the importance of family
It was almost inevitable that Coco Brandolini d’Adda would work in fashion. The world of design is woven so intrinsically into her everyday life that pursuing a career in another industry would appear almost nonsensical. As a child she grew up watching the fashion shows of Valentino (her mother Countess Georgina Brandolini d’Adda was the designer’s head of public relations for almost 20 years) while her grandmother, the impeccably chic Countess Cristiana Brandolini d’Adda, cultivated a love of style and beauty in Coco from a young age. “She would always take me to see things, travelling, walking in the garden to see each type of flower… She was open minded, a bit eccentric and very curious to develop things for me.”
Despite fashion playing a pivotal part of her upbringing, Coco didn’t immediately see a role in the industry as a natural progression of this path. “For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to work in fashion strangely enough.” At the end of her university degree in political science and philosophy, she found an internship opportunity at Oscar de la Renta in New York. It was here that Coco says she, “returned to my roots. I was supposed to go there for three months and come back, but he ended up hiring me and I stayed for five years. He was very generous of his time, very intelligent and enthusiastic, and with me he was particularly fatherly because I didn’t have any family there. Even though I was working it felt like home. I was very lucky for that.”
She credits her time with Oscar de la Renta as shaping her future career. “Most of what I know, I learnt there with Oscar,” she says. “I already had high standards because my mother worked with Valentino and my grandmother was always dressed in the most amazing pieces. But with Oscar I was working with him in the atelier and I always knew I was never going to work on, let’s say, a contemporary line, I was always attracted to a certain level of clothing.”
It is this intense love of craftmanship that makes Coco so particularly suited to her current position with Alta Moda, the extravagant couture line founded in 2012 by Dolce & Gabbana designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. Coco’s role at the house is a coming home of sorts, marrying her understanding and appreciation of high fashion with her Italian heritage. She has been with Alta Moda since the start, after a chance meeting with Domenico Dolce at a party after their fashion show, led to her joining the team. “We started talking, talking and he said I’ve got this new project for a couture line and thought I was the right person for this. It was one conversation but it triggered something in me.”
Although her desk sits within the design department, she also works closely with Alta Moda’s clients. Unlike customers of ready-to-wear lines who are arguably largely influenced by the vagaries of popularity and trends, couture houses build loyal, long-standing relationships with their clientele. Understandable when you consider that each piece will often cost from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars and is meticulously tailored to the exact measurements of a customer. At Alta Moda the relationship between couturier and client runs even deeper. “There’s a maximum of 200 to 300 couture clients, so it’s very personal. They (Domenico and Stefano) really want the clients to see us as a big family, there’s a whole mentality of welcoming, events last four to five days and people really get to know each other,” she explains.
I’m not touched by or sensitive about trends in general. I’m quite eclectic because I wear a lot of different things together.
The importance of la familia extends to the company ethos too. As a mother of two young daughters and now pregnant with her third child, Coco is clearly aware of how invaluable this attitude is in helping her with the inevitable juggle between family and work. “They [Domenico and Stefano] have a very strong sense of family. Day to day, for example if I am in a meeting with the boys and I say I have to leave to take my girl to the doctor, they’ll never, ever have a problem with it, they’ll just say ‘Yes ok, go, quick! They’re very careful and understanding and they know the priority for every mother, although she works, is the kids.” She also lives close to the atelier. Filled with an eclectic mix of design books, children’s paintings, colourful crochet throws, artworks and mementoes picked up on her travels, her flat in Milan is beautiful and an ode to her peripatetic life. Yet more important is its proximity to both her office and her children. “I manage to see my kids. I can pick them up at school, I’m very lucky as I can organise myself to do everything – my days are very full but I manage to do everything.”
With her third daughter arriving soon, her days are about to become even more full. “I was a bit nervous, because I thought it [this pregnancy] would be harder but I’m lucky because my pregnancies have been very good in general.” And she also has the confidence in knowing where her priorities lie. She may be devoted to her role but at the end of the day it’s her daughters that come first. “As long as it’s [work and motherhood] done in harmony then its fine because you don’t feel like you’re missing out. They [Alta Moda] get that I give what I give, but if there’s something urgent then my heart goes to my family.”
In Her Words
NINE LONG OR JOYOUS MONTHS?
HYPERACTIVE OR CHILLED DURING PREGNANCY?
Both, I was active but I really took my time to relax this time as it’s my third.
YOUR TOP TIP FOR OTHER PREGNANT WOMEN?
Embrace it. Continue living as you lived, that’s if pregnancy goes well. Don’t change your life too much because it only gets better. It depends where you live but in Italy people are really treated like princesses when pregnant.
WHAT HAVE YOU MISSED MOST WHEN PREGNANT?
Nothing really in the beginning, but in the last months I missed my mobility – I like to walk fast and take my kids in my arms.
WHAT COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT DURING PREGNANCY?
I’m very into oils when I’m pregnant, I put litres and litres of oils on my body.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
Still it’s when the baby moves inside of you. The feeling that is like a science fiction movie. To me, even though it’s my third, every time I feel it move it throws me off guard, it’s never something I’ve got used to.
IF YOUR PARTNER COULD CARRY THE BABY WOULD YOU LET HIM?
No, probably not. There’s a reason why women are chosen to be the one carrying babies!