The imposing palace at 33 Via della Moscova in Milan’s affluent Brera district was once a hub of the local silk trade. Industrialists and craftsmen traveled from all over Italy to the building, built at the end of the 19th century and known as Cortile della Seta, to meet, discuss and vote on industrial matters. During World War II, the structure was destroyed by bombs; it was later rebuilt and used as a bank. Since this year, however, when it became the headquarters of Loro Piana, as well as the site of the 98-year-old brand’s second store dedicated to interiors, the palace is once again home to high-end textiles.
Hailing from Trivero in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, the Loro Piana family have been working wool, an economic staple of the mountainous province, since the early 1800s. Building on what they learned of his relatives, Pietro Loro Piana founded the eponymous brand, which quickly became known for producing some of the finest fabrics in Italy, in 1924. During the post-war years, the brand developed a solid business selling to high-end tailors across Europe, the United States and Japan, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when two of Pietro’s great-nephews, brothers Pier Luigi and Sergio Loro Piana, followed in the footsteps of their father, Franco, and took the helm which he began to resemble in his current form.
The pair introduced clothing and accessories – simple fringed scarves and stoles at first – and searched beyond Piedmont for materials, including baby cashmere from Mongolia, obtained from the underfleece of a baby Capra hircus goat that can only be combed once in the child. life, before he had one, and the vicuna (first source for the mark by Franco), derived from a relative of the Andean llama. By the end of the 1990s, Loro Piana was selling elegant tailored jackets, woolen overcoats and finely woven cashmere sweaters in its shops in Milan and New York. In 2013, LVMH bought an 80% stake in the brand (it bought 5% a few years later), although Pier Luigi remains vice-president (Sergio died in 2013). And it has retained its reputation for its exceptional and often exclusive materials, as well as its dedication to craftsmanship: all stages of production, from fiber processing and textile weaving to the sewing and finishing of garments and other goods, take place entirely in-house between nine factories or mills, all in Italy and most in Piedmont.
With her new location, Loro Piana seems to be turning the page to a new chapter. Previously, its offices were scattered throughout the city, but as the brand continued to grow, the decision was made to bring together its design, marketing, administration and other teams to facilitate communication between them. When Via della Moscova 33 became available following a lengthy structural renovation led by local firm Asti Architetti, its central location, size (280,000 square feet) and storied past made it an obvious choice. Then came another decision: who should take care of the interior design of the offices? The firm commissioned Vincent Van Duysen, the Belgian architect known for projects as streamlined as Casa M, his own minimalist concrete retreat that sits among the dunes of the seaside town of Comporta, Portugal, and the sleek hotel August of Antwerp, located in a former convent. “It tastes very pure,” says Francesco Pergamo, director of Loro Piana Interiors. Indeed, the architect and the brand exchange in a kind of disarming simplicity, whether in the form of a spare house lined with travertine or in that of a no-frills merino knit.
The sun-drenched, glass-roofed inner courtyard at Via della Moscova 33, where tens of thousands of bundles of precious silkworm cocoons were once stored, now serves as the brand’s public square. Standing at its center, one can gaze skyward through the wide stacked windows and into various showrooms, where shelves of clothes stand against pale cream walls, and into spacious offices.
The architect’s overall goal, he says, was to give the company’s employees a new environment while referencing the brand’s DNA. The fluted walls on the second floor, for example, are wrapped in a cream-coloured fabric in Trevira, a fire-retardant technical material, while in the otherwise open offices he has designed a system of partitions covered in Trevira. The same fabric in Kummel, or the brownish burgundy that features in the company’s logo, was used for the sleek office chairs – not quite straight-backed seats with simple white steel bases on wheels – designed by Van Duysen for the Belgian company Bulo. They’re tucked away in custom desks, with bone-colored aluminum frames, pale oak drawers and dove-grey felt privacy screens., that Van Duysen designed for Unifor. The floor is made of recycled fishing nets. Van Duysen agrees that “there is a synergy between my aesthetic and theirs,” adding, “It’s all about having an eye for detail. »
It should be noted that the new space is inaugurated at the same time as the company itself strengthens its division of interiors, which was launched with decorative textiles, accessories and rugs in 2006. “They created a box with different fabrics that was sent to the most important decorators in the world,” says Pergamo about its beginnings. Later, the brand opened textile showrooms for design professionals in Milan, New York, Paris and Los Angeles. But when Pergamo moved into interiors in 2019 – he was previously director of women’s and leather goods product development – he did so with the aim of making Loro Piana fabrics, and many others, more visible and accessible.” I wanted to get into furniture, finished products and design projects,” he says.
In 2019, he and the rest of the Loro Piana Interiors team redecorated one of the private pavilions in the grounds of Lake Como’s Villa d’Este hotel, dressing its rooms in complementary shades of coral and blue robin’s egg that appear on velvet headboards, cashmere sofas, wool rugs and silk curtains. They followed this with several limited edition furniture collaborations, including a Cashfur lounge chair made with Raphael Navot and a series of mahogany director’s chairs designed by Paola Navone and manufactured by Exteta, before producing their own customizable furniture, such as that of the recently launched the Ginza line, whose pieces are defined by high square armrests and, if desired, piping in contrasting colors. In 2020, the Paris showroom was transformed into an interiors store open to the public, but the new store in Milan will be the flagship.
Situated behind four large arched windows at the building’s street level, it was designed by the in-house team, and while the offices fully embrace Van Duysen’s strain of minimalism, the store feels more like the warm, well-appointed home from someone. The brand’s cashmere-upholstered furniture is arranged in several domestic stagings (a dining and sitting area, a spa-like bathroom) accented with products ranging from woven horsehair placemats to cotton dressing gowns. silk cashmere. Also on offer are rugs and wallpaper, and in a small alcove at the back of the store, fabric swatches hang on pegs in what’s called the Textile Library. They’re organized by color and include Chesa, a yarn-dyed cashmere and wool blend in a muted gray and amber madras pattern, and Ice, a pure cashmere whose undyed fibers fuse into a natural blend. Customers can simply select their favorite or work with the in-house design team, located on the second floor of the store, to decorate their home (or yacht).
Come June, which is when the city’s next annual Salone del Mobile design fair takes place, the building’s courtyard will be the location of an installation showing off a new furniture collaboration. Details are still under wraps, but Pergamo isn’t afraid of his enthusiasm for space. “With this new building, we have a real home in Milan,” he says. “And having a house without the home business would have been a bit strange, right?”