Style | The Aesthete

Giulio Cappellini talks personal style

Giulio Cappellini runs one of the world’s most creative – and prolific – product design companies, with pieces in MoMA and the V&A.

April 12 2011
Maria Shollenbarger

My personal style signifier is my fragrance – Vetiver by Guerlain. I’ve used it my whole life, so I don’t really smell it on myself any more. But people always say they know when I’ve arrived. £36, 50ml, and other stockists.

The last thing I bought and loved is a vase from a friend of mine who owns Luminaire in Coral Gables [Florida], one of the most avant-garde design shops in the States. You speak into this voice-modulation measurement thing, and a totally unique vase is produced in this extraordinary, very rapid prototype. When you consider the technology, you think, “Oh, it’s far away from creativity,” but actually, it’s so poetic. 2331 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, Fl 3314 (+1305-448 7367;

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a sculpture by an artist called Velasco Vitali. He’s making these beautiful dog sculptures in bronze, and in Milan last year he had a huge installation of them in the Stazione Centrale.

The person I rely on for personal grooming and style is my tailor, Domenico Caraceni. He makes all of my suits. He’s a real classic. Via Palestro 24, 20122 Milan (+3902-778811;

The book on my bedside table is an excellent older one about Liberty art from the 1930s, and magazines – towers of them. And also, Mickey Mouse comics – I prefer the older ones. Mickey Mouse is hugely visually inspiring to me.

The last music I downloaded was Carmen, which I recently saw at La Scala, and it was so fantastic I immediately bought another performance. I’ve been listening to it for weeks. Teatro alla Scala (+3902-861 827;

An indulgence I’d never forego is buying Hermès small leather things. I always have one on me; a belt, agenda or wallet. I like them when they’re used, as you can see the quality; when they become old, good things become beautiful. Being in contemporary design, people expect me to be modern; then often they meet me and say, “You’re so old-style, so... British.” But I like this contrast. 155 New Bond Street, London W1 (020-7499 8856; and branches/stockists.

The best gift I’ve given recently is a pair of old ceramic cups that I found in China. The colour is that pale green, like the Sung Dynasty ceramics. They are over 1,000 years old and yet so modern.

And the best one I’ve received was from a young German designer called Sascha Nordmeyer, whose work I saw at the Courtrai Biennale. I was very impressed, and wrote to him to see if we might collaborate. He sent these beautiful flowers, made entirely of paper and fabric (€80); poetic and beautiful. Now he’s designing for us.

A recent find is Gay-Odin’s shop in Milan. Gay-Odin is a famous Neapolitan chocolate maker. I used to buy piles of its chocolate in Naples and drag it across the country. Now I can get it at home. Via San Giovanni sul Muro 19, 20121 Milan (+3902-966 3509;

An object I would never part with is my book collection. I have several that were gifts from very special people who’ve been important in my life and career. I have one signed by [the late Japanese designer] Shiro Kuramata, for instance, which for me is like an original Bible.

The last item I added to my wardrobe is a beige and pale-blue scarf by Ballantyne. I can’t do them so much in the summer, but in autumn, winter and spring I always wear one.

An artist whose work I would collect if I could is [Jean-Michel] Basquiat – he is incredible, incredible. He was always inspired by kids and the street, which is important and admirable. Another is Lucio Fontana, because he expressed the spirit of simple things. He knew it’s more difficult to simplify rather than to add.

My favourite website is the Hermès site, because the most classic, timeless company has made something really alive and surprising. It shows you can be traditional and contemporary at the same time.