Style | The Aesthete

Carlo Brandelli talks personal style: Part Two

The creative director and fashion designer completes his personal survey of tastes and preferences.

November 25 2011
Charlotte Sinclair

My style icon is Dirk Bogarde in Death in Venice. Or Bowie as The Thin White Duke. Or Vincent Gallo, or a young Clint Eastwood, or Christopher Walken in King of New York… and Pope John Paul II. Style is about many things, especially perceived power. I’ve always been interested in uniform. The pope’s clothing is very particular – ceremonious and ornate. Through it he emits a very strong and persuasive power. And, apparently, Pope Jean Paul II had his shoes made by a bespoke Italian shoemaker.

The people I rely on for personal grooming and style are two friends of mine: the brilliant Peter Smith and Matthew Mulhall, who are great barbers (when they can fit you in). Peter’s been going for quite a while; he started off with a salon but he now mostly works for private clients and fashion shows. Matthew’s salon is a first-floor walk-up in Bayswater called Kinninmont. Kinninmont, 26 Chilworth Street, London W2 (020-7706 8200).

An indulgence I would never forego is William Curley chocolate truffles. I’m very into chocolate and had been searching for years for the perfect truffle. I discovered William when he had a small place in Shepherd’s Market. I remember walking in and looking at his truffles and thinking they were expensive for London. Then I tried one, and they were just incredible. I think he makes the best chocolates in the world.

The last music I downloaded was… nothing! I am a music fan, but I must admit that I haven’t bought a CD for 15 years. I hear music in every environment – in fashion studios, in art studios – I’m surrounded by music. I find that a lot of its purity has gone. But I do still listen to my old vinyl – everything from Debussy to Bowie to Kraftwerk.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a hand-embroidered handkerchief similar to the one I made as part of a collaboration with Matthew Brannon – a sculpture that also includes a trench coat and scents – for his stand at Frieze. It’s a play on a monogrammed handkerchief. It’s a very beautiful thing.

And the best one I’ve received recently was a rare seashell from Deyrolle in Paris from my son Max. It’s very sculptural, and stands about 6in high. I don’t know what kind of shell it is, but it has a skeletal feel to it. He’s got a good eye. For the same birthday, my daughter Lola made me her signature pâtisserie: mille-feuilles with fresh raspberries, strawberries and a light vanilla coulis. 46 Rue du Bac, Paris 75007 (+331-4222 3007;

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Gramercy Park in New York. I was invited to produce a piece of artwork for a group show at Casey Kaplan gallery. I stayed in the historic Tilden Mansion, which belongs to the National Arts Club. It’s in a fantastic location, just off the park. There are only four guest rooms, reserved for visiting members, and there are apartments for long-term residents. It’s one of those old-world New York things that seems to have been forgotten about. Lunch, most days, was at the Four Seasons bar in Mies van der Rohe’s seminal Seagram Building, a fantastic piece of architecture. Tilden Mansion, 15 Gramercy Park, New York 10003 ( The Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, New York 10022 (+1212-754 9494;

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is salted caramel popcorn with pistachios from Dean & Deluca. For Italians, food – along with art, style and fashion – is at the centre of everything we do. This popcorn was so extortionately expensive, I thought it had to be good. I think that, from the moment I left the shop, it lasted all of five minutes – there was no way it was actually going to reach London. I also dug out a piece of white, translucent alabaster from a surface quarry in Volterra, Italy, for an artwork. That’s a pretty amazing souvenir.

The site that inspires me is any quiet, natural space with nothing manmade to be seen. I love great expanses of water, like those photographed by the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. Or the mountains. We go to Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites to ski, though I spend most of my time taking photographs of the landscape.

My favourite room in my house is the garden. It’s a small, U-shaped, evergreen garden set around a courtyard. It was a former stables so there are these big Portland paving stones, and there’s box hedging around the border, which we’ve let run wild.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose my hometown of Castello in Reggio Emilia, Italy’s secret gem. It has the best baker and butcher, and fantastic wine and charcuterie, and at least a dozen top-quality trattorias – completely unknown to tourists – dotted about the hills, where you can eat very well for a pittance. It’s only 50 minutes from Milan airport and less than two hours from Venice, Florence and the beaches near Portofino. I’ve got a house and a studio in Castello, so whenever I’m not needed in London, I go there.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is New York, for the creative community, the food and the galleries. I love walking the High Line gardens – this summer they opened a new stretch. It’s the most fantastic innovation for the city.

See also

People, Interview