Style | The Aesthete

Carlo Brandelli talks personal style: Part One

A pioneering creative director and fashion designer, Carlo Brandelli exhibited sculptural works at this year’s Frieze Art Fair in London.

November 22 2011
Charlotte Sinclair

My personal style signifier is my beard. I only grew it a couple of years ago, but it’s what everybody notices. I’ve been in fashion all my life, so I have hundreds of bespoke suits, about 90 overcoats, dozens of pairs of dark jeans, and I always looked the same. When you suddenly grow a beard, people think you’re changing your identity in some way – and at the time I was crossing over from fashion into art.

The last thing I bought and loved was a light sand-coloured Burmese cat, Luna. My children had been asking me for a cat for a while, and my wife researched breeders to get a female in that specific colour.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a Roland Mouret dress for Mrs Brandelli. I became friends with Roland several years ago and I made him an outfit for Nick Knight’s masked ball in Paris. I’ve lots of friends who happen to be artists or designers, so we do swaps: clothing for art, clothing for clothing. www.rolandmouret.com.

A recent “find” is Patum Peperium Gentleman’s Relish. It’s an anchovy paste that you spread on hot toast; one of those traditional curiosities peculiar to the English and Englishness. Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1 (0845-300 1707; www.fortnumandmason.com).

The grooming staples I’m never without are Nivea and Santa Maria Novella soaps – I like the mild scents of the latter. Because I’ve got a beard, my grooming is pretty minimal, but I recently made my own scent with an old artisan perfume house. I can’t tell you what it smells like, though, as we might be producing a range soon. www.nivea.co.uk. www.smnovella.it.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Malletti in Soho, London. It’s literally a hole in the wall. I was walking past one day and noticed the white-marble counter covered with fresh pizza. I knew instinctively it was going to be great. It only serves pizza and a couple of pasta of dishes at lunchtime, and you can’t sit down. 26 Noel Street, London W1 (020-7439 4096; www.pizzeriamalletti.co.uk).

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is the sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. The sheer scale of his work would make it tricky to collect; he creates these spheres that he places in extraordinary locations. I think there’s even one in the Vatican.

The books on my bedside table are mostly art-reference books: The Omega Suites featuring the photographs of Lucinda Devlin; Zones of Experience: The Art of Larry Bell; Mariko Mori’s Oneness; a book on the German Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius; and art or fashion magazines, such as 032c and Paradis. The Omega Suites is about how man decides to kill man within the US penal system. The images are of electric chairs, but the subject matter is very sensitively handled.

The last item I added to my wardrobe was a pair of black suede Adidas trainers, courtesy of my friend Gary Aspden, an Adidas creative. A narrow trainer in dark leather can give a suit an easy elegance. But you wouldn’t wear them with a traditional wool two-piece. I created a suit that has a formal silhouette without any of the stiff, internal working, which is perfect with trainers. www.adidas.com.

In my fridge you’ll always find water, several types, mineral to filtered: Scandinavian, usually, if bottled; London chalk straight from the taps, if not. And Parmigiano-Reggiano, matured 36 months.

An object I would never part with is a block of Travertine marble in the courtyard of my studio that weighs about two tonnes. Part of the block was used for a sculpture, and the rest has been left as it came. There are one or two marble quarries near Rome that virtually every sculptor since the Renaissance has used.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a design director. I deliberately haven’t designed menswear since resigning from my last brand – instead, I have worked on art-based projects. I was interested in sculpture before I got into fashion, and I always incorporated art into my work at Kilgour; I worked with Nick Knight and Peter Saville on art direction. There’s often a resistance from designers to say their work is artistic, but I think a creative person is a creative person, whether a chef or a craftsperson.

See also

People, Interview