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Designers Dish: Tod's Creative Director Alessandra Facchinetti

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During a recent stop in L.A., the Milan-based mega designer (and Tom Ford's former right hand) dished on her minimalist collection, what makes a proper Hollywood muse and the art of "managing the creative process like a schedule"

Alessandra Facchinetti is the kind of woman other women should aspire to be (this woman does, at least). The 43 year-old is poised and polished, and talks about her current job -- heading the creative direction of Tod's -- with an actual glimmer of excitement in her eye. While the creative corporatism of modern apparel design often lacks that genuine zeal, Facchinetti's passion for her position is no accident.

The daughter of famed Italian singer Roby Facchinetti, the sophisticated designer got her start under Miuccia Prada at Miu Miu before decamping to Gucci seven years later, where she spent four years under Tom Ford's glam-fueled wing. She eventually ascended to the Italian luxury label's top womenswear spot, where she spent two seasons before taking over Valentino's reins from the namesake master himself. While her brand of modern Italian classicism has always been consistently strong from a critical point of view, Facchinetti has also left the fashion world wondering whether or not she would ever truly find her footing. 

But back in early 2013, she got a call from spirited Tod's owner Diego Della Valle. And judging by the wearable yet sumptuous, understated clothes coming down the label's most recent runways, her footing has finally found her. 

We met up with the warm, accomplished designer (who, it's worth noting, kept complete humor and grace even when accidentally spilling coffee on her cream trousers) during her recent trip to her brand's Beverly Hills store. We learned how to combat jet lag, why thoughtful day dressing is an art and -- most important -- what kind of feminine aesthetic we should all strive to achieve.

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You're constantly traveling, but you haven't been to Los Angeles in quite some time. What's on the agenda this trip? 

I was missing it a lot! It's been like eight years. Long. I’m super happy to be here. Super happy. If I can, I'll try to manage to visit some stores and a museum if we can get the time to do it. The real welcome is the first thing in the morning when you see the beautiful sky.  

Lately we can't get on a plane often enough. Do you like to globe trot? 

Yes, when I'm in it. Today I’m fine. But there is a very short time to do the collection, and that's my priority. Especially now that the season is shorter.

There seems to be so much pressure on designers these days to produce so much more, so much faster. 

It’s really changed. The time we spend to create is really short. I have two days for sketches, two days for fabric. You can’t control it. If you don’t have an idea in the moment, you have to wait. It's difficult to manage the creative process like a schedule. 

In that case, the travel must not be as exciting for you as it would be for us. How do you handle the jet lag? 

Try to sleep on the plane. There is no other way. Yesterday we arrived at 3 p.m. and we didn’t sleep, so yesterday night it was very bad, I couldn’t sleep. It’s horrible. I just watch the movies on the plane and then, OMG!  We arrived. Take pills and sleep! Old school, but the right way. 

 

MINIMAL FUSS: Karolina Kurvoa, left, and Caitlin Fitzgerald in Facchinetti's Tod's handiwork. 

 

When it comes to clothes (and everything else), L.A. really is a town of contradictions -- glamorous gowns by night but jeans and T-shirts by day. How does your work reflect that balance? 

It’s much more about everyday. It’s not as much focused on the red carpet as it is everyday. The way we work, the way we walk, how we travel. I’m more concentrated on that. Even if there are special pieces. At the end of the day there is always a casual attitude in the way I want to present [the collection]. Even if it’s really rich and special — with a pair of jeans, you can go for cocktails or a beautiful lunch. [The collection] is elevated but with a day attitude. 

Do you wear jeans to work? 

Every day recently is a pair of jeans and a shirt and a flat, like a moccasin. I designed my perfect [jeans] for Tod's. But I love ACNE. 

Heels at work tend to scare us, even though it seems it's finally becoming standard practice again to put yourself together during the day. Coming from Gucci and Valentino, you're obviously used to very high-wattage, statement-making red carpet clothes with a major celebrity strategy behind them. Is that going to play into the Tod's brand going forward?

In my past experiences I worked a lot with Hollywood and celebrities, but really for the red carpet. And this time it's interesting because I'm really focused on daytime. Which is a very large time! I'm not saying we might not get into [red carpet]. But now the focus is the day, which is a lot more related to the history of the house. 

LA DOLCE VITA: Spirited Italian minimalism comes alive on the Tod's spring 2015 runway. 

 

Surely you had Hollywood muses when you were designing evening gowns. Who do you consider your muses now? 

It’s tricky. In the past I used to have one person all the time in my mind. This time I have to say it’s changed. There are so many beautiful women I like — Angelina Jolie, for one — and they have such incredible character. But it's not only about the beauty. I like attitude. Today I’m really more about attitude. The way a woman moves. Not only about how she dresses, but her character. The way she lives. The way I think about beauty is a little larger. I try to get more emotional in a way. Obviously the beauty is the beauty. But I think today to move on is better to understand the soul of a woman. If you can get it, then the beauty comes out.

Fashion critics -- Suzy Menkes and Cathy Horyn included -- keep saying how "at home" it seems you are at Tod's, strictly judging by the work you're putting out. How do you respond to that?

It’s a perfect match. It was important for them to find someone who understands the Italian history and Italian style and vision and aesthetic. And I like the fact that Tod's is based on classics. I really feel myself very close to that. I obviously add my twist and my vision. The people really reflect my way to work. In that sense I am home.

 

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