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Biffi’s New Take on Avant-Garde

MILAN — A trip to Biffi quickly sweeps away any depressing thoughts about bad economies or pending wars. On any given day, Rosy Biffi’s boutique in Corso Genova brims over with customers eager to snap up the latest Marni antique floral...

MILAN — A trip to Biffi quickly sweeps away any depressing thoughts about bad economies or pending wars. On any given day, Rosy Biffi’s boutique in Corso Genova brims over with customers eager to snap up the latest Marni antique floral dress, a Yohji Yamamoto oversize, razor-sharp jacket, or colorful embroidered sweaters from China Wall.

But Biffi also has a talent for discovering new, avant-garde designers. Its clientele is fashion-savvy and knowledgeable — and has deep pockets. “We were carrying Rohka before anyone had even heard of it,” said Biffi, proudly touching the clothes on the racks. (Rohka designers Maria Restrepo and Ian Phin won the global young designers competition held here in September, together with Ichiro Seta.) “I love fashion and a season with bad collections really depresses me.”

Biffi’s love of fashion turned into a business with the opening of her store 35 years ago. She also owns two stores in the city’s fashion triangle: Banner, in Via Sant’Andrea, and Kenzo, as well as one in Bergamo.

This year, the Corso Genova boutique was completely renovated and redesigned by Italian architect Gae Aulenti, who designed Banner as well. It also was expanded, with the addition of 3,240 square feet, for a total of 5,400 square feet. “It almost looks like a museum, or an art gallery, where the clothes are on display,” said Biffi. “I like the clean, minimalist, but not anonymous shapes.”

Aulenti created airy open-space areas. “I want to be able to move things around and change displays easily. I dislike anything fixed,” said Biffi.

The store is bright, with white and cream as the dominant colors. The resin floors are cream colored and treated with an ostrich effect. A large zinc-and-steel staircase connects the two floors — its tubular steel structure with a right angle looks like it was taken from the deck of a luxurious multibillion-dollar yacht. Zinc is one of the store’s main materials, also making up the drawers, which usually are gray, but sometimes are red — the only concession to vivid color. To avoid a sense of unnatural stillness and perfection, Biffi has clothes strewn on the shelves in a haphazard manner. “Too much tidiness is intimidating,” she said.

This story first appeared in the December 30, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.