Lunch with … Veronica Etro
For a cappuccino with strawberries and croissants we meet the designer to talk about fashion with a message, her current collection and the work in a family business with three brothers.
The world of Veronica Etro is cheerful and colorful. Like the patterns of her dresses with the famous Paisley. It is therefore not surprising that her office in the headquarters of the family business on Milan's Via Spartaco resembles a chamber of curiosities - with colorfully covered armchairs and all kinds of souvenirs on the shelves. Her assistant has prepared the breakfast: a collection of perfect strawberries, a plate with small croissants and biscuits, a tray of water and juices. The designer had asked the day after her autumn/winter 2019/20 show to turn our lunch into a late breakfast because the weekend after the bustle of the half-yearly fashion show traditionally belongs to her family, her husband Alessandro and two sons Filippo and Lorenzo, ten and 14 years old.
Veronica Etro welcomes me with a beaming smile and a warm embrace. She wears cigarette-cut trousers with a paisley pattern, of course, and a black wool sweater with frayed hems. She orders two cappuccinos from an employee, pours water and slides the plates with fruits and croissants near me. The scent of strawberries fills the whole room.
I want to show real women with a real life in real clothes.
Etro's German is perfect after attending the German school in Milan as a child. She then switches to English anyway. That would be easier for her. England is also the keyword for her new collection: exact tailoring, Scottish check, Jodhpur trousers, and mini dresses - unlike the usual flowing, long and hippie robes, Veronica Etro surprised the fashion show visitors with a new facet of the 50-year-old brand. She wants to know how they felt about it. And then she explains that after last year's 50th-anniversary celebration and exhibition, and having reviewed all the archives, she decided that one chapter was over. "Nevertheless, the Paisley is still in the center," she says in a girlish voice. "I christened the collection 'Aristocratic Indies'. Indies stands for Independent Music". Serious and familiar on the one hand, more experimental and crazier on the other should be the new fashion. "And timeless in everything." Cappuccini is carried in on a tray, Decaf with sweetener for her. She smiles at her employee and thanks him.
When she picks up the thread again, she tells us that it was important to her to send women of all ages on the catwalk when casting the models. And so, in addition to the currently hip young model faces, women like Tatjana Patitz with her 52 years, 41-year-old Alek Wek and Jacquetta Wheeler, 37, also walked the runway. "Tatjana was one of my superheroes of the 90s," says Veronica Etro with glowing eyes. "I want to show real women with a real life in real clothes," she sums up her idea. She likes the idea that you don't have to change Etro clothes from season to season, but that old and new parts build on each other and complement each other. The good thing about the patterns and colors is that you can mix and match them. Sustainability is an issue that is very close to her heart.
It was her father, Gimmo Etro, now 79, who discovered the Indian leaf pattern for fabric prints and made it the DNA of the company founded in 1968. It has been called Paisley since it came to Scotland with British soldiers and was processed there in the town of Paisley. "As a child, my father often asked me which fabrics and patterns I liked. I have always enjoyed making collages, gluing, embroidering. It was a playground for me and still is today. I never thought that the Paisley could be a heavy legacy or if I was fed up with it. In the end, it's a very versatile pattern, you can interpret it infinitely. It keeps changing its face, its soul. It can be traditional, rocky, psychedelic and aristocratic. A unisex pattern."
Gimmos children, Veronica and her brothers Ippolito, Kean and Jacopo, have absorbed the pattern and now all work in the company. For Veronica, it was always natural to work with the family, with her brothers. "Everyone is independent in his or her field, everyone has his or her own freedom, and we meet at some points of intersection.
Veronica Etro studied at the Central Saint Martins in London. It was important to her that the college had previously been an art school and that it wasn't just about clothes. "We did art, jewelry, window displays, theatre productions. A whole universe opened up for me." For the autumn/winter show, Etro changed the location for the first time in many years. She chose the Giuseppe Verdi Academy of Music. "For me, it is the quintessence of Milan. I remember that as a child I often passed by the conservatory and was always fascinated by the sounds of the practicing students." Today her taste in music is very mixed.
I can see how important it is to keep your feet on the ground and communicate this to my children.
Has your motherhood influenced your work? "I can see how important it is to keep your feet on the ground and communicate this to my children." In the show, her boys don't sit in the front row as a matter of course. Just like herself, the kids usually take the bus. "And I make sure that they consume consciously, for example when they want new clothes or a smartphone." The older one has been equipped with a device for a year now, but the younger one hasn't yet. No Social Media, no Instagram - this is her policy. Because she doesn't want to set a bad example, Veronica Etro herself isn't on Instagram either.
And if she wants to recover from the hubbub of the Italian fashion metropolis, Veronica Etro travels to the sea, preferably to the family home on Ibiza. Now she has a relaxing weekend ahead of her, which begins for her as for millions of mothers: When we say goodbye, she tells us that she still has to go to the supermarket and that the children need a new triangle for school. Lovely!
Story by Petra Winter