NEW YORK — “People don’t dress up anymore,” Georgina Brandolini says in her no-nonsense manner. “I never dress up, anyway.” If today’s look — a leather Dolce & Gabbana jacket, striped button-down jeans and flat, suede boots — is any indication, she isn’t fibbing. Sitting in a room in the Plaza Athénée, Brandolini is in town from her home base in Paris, introducing her brand new line of sweaters to a select group of retailers and editors.
Brandolini’s new knits are classified as “evening sweaters,” but in actuality, they are more amphibious. The knits blend varying amounts of cotton, silk, viscose and cashmere and feature details such as lace insets, round coral buttons, satin trim and sprinklings of turquoise, mother-of-pearl and coral bits. The extras bring a little something special for daytime while simultaneously serving as a passport to a laid-back evening. And while the look is embellished, it’s not overdone.
Instead, what Brandolini aims for is a chic form of practicality that stems from her own fashion ethos. “I’m not the precious type,” she says. “In a way, the sweaters are a bit sporty, which I like. They’re not too sophisticated.” As she’s a fan of tops that casually slip off the shoulder, many boast wide necks. And lace, which Brandolini finds “very sexy,” makes a major presence, showing up as inset stripes, a tank-like neck detail on a wide-neck sweater or, on another, as an entire back panel. Some knits take a more under-the-radar approach such as a beautiful creamy V-neck with a neckline trimmed in raw-edged chiffon or a simple boat-neck knit with coral buttons on the sleeve.
While Brandolini is gracious and accessible in person, on paper, the Brazilian-born countess sounds like an intimidating force of social and fashion nature. She boasts her own aristocratic lineage and her husband of 28 years, Ruy Brandolini, is part of the powerful Agnelli clan. Among her circle of close friends are such fashion luminaries as Valentino Garavani, Giancarlo Giammetti, Christian Louboutin and Oscar de la Renta. Diane von Furstenberg is both a good friend and cousin. Meanwhile, Brandolini’s 22 years as Valentino’s muse and another five as a managing director at Balmain have sharpened her fashion skills to a glittering point.
But even so, going it alone can be risky, especially when expectations are high. “I’m very happy,” Brandolini says of her solo act. “But, you know, it’s a lot of responsibility.” Of course, a little help from your friends does go far. Von Furstenberg has been forthcoming with loads of advice and Garavani and Giammetti have offered counsel and support since the line was still in sketches.
Brandolini’s New York trip has already proved successful, pulling in orders from a range of retailers — Janet Brown, Betsey Ross and Scoop. Brown previewed the sweaters during the Paris collections and confirmed her order recently. “If you look at Georgina Brandolini, that’s what my customer looks like,” Brown says. “They’re great pieces, which is the key to modern fashion. If you walked into Cipriani in the off-the-shoulder turquoise sweater and a great, sleek pair of pants, it’s perfectly fine.”
And Brandolini has already received rave reviews from two of her toughest customers, her daughters Coco, 24, who works for Oscar de la Renta, and Bianca, 16, a student. Are they going to wear mom’s wares? “Oh yes, they love them,” Brandolini says. “They love fashion.” Like mother, like daughters.