Chichi Meroni is one of the last true Grand Dames of Milanese style. From her headquarters on Via Largo Augusto — where her cult shopping destination L’Arabesque resides — the endlessly chic designer sets the city’s style agenda on everything from hard to find vintage clothing and furniture, bespoke wedding dresses and the best tabletops.

Style

The sound of chunky bakelite bracelets is music to everyone’s ears.

I’ve always loved bakelite bracelets, I wear them everyday. My mom hated bracelets but my aunt loved them and as I child I loved to hear the noise they made. I have three granddaughters and they all love my bracelets. The only time when I take them off is when I design my dresses.

Don’t be a slacker with slippers, keep your heels on in the house.

I never wear slippers in the house. If I wear high heels, I’m doing it for a reason. It means that I’m wearing an outfit that goes with high heels, so why should I change into ballerinas or slippers?

Give your ultra-girly dresses a kick with a pair of manly shoes.

I love feminine dresses worn with masculine shoes. Brands that I love are Clergerie, specifically their Oxford lace up, Paraboot, a classic French shoes from the 1940 and Church’s. I even design Derby shoes for my line.

Jeans and heels? Think again, babe.

I would never wear jeans with high heels, I can’t stand them.

When it comes to trousers, a straight leg is the sweet spot.

Trousers should be neither wide nor tight, Meroni insists.

Age appropriate is always chic.

I think that a woman, even if she has the most perfect body, should never dress like her daughter. You should dress to feel good about yourself but you should never escape your age.

Build your wardrobe with dark-coloured neutrals.

I think that black and blue are essential in every woman’s wardrobe, no matter her age. I was in a boarding school for many years and my uniform was blue so maybe this is why I’m obsessed with it. My entire closet contains only black, navy, camel and a little white for the summer.

Lycra should never see the light of day.

Exercise clothes are for gym, only. I think it’s horrific to go round in your exercise clothes or a track suit. You shouldn’t wear it at home either.

Get to know your knitwear. According to Chichi wool and cashmere are top.

Knitwear is mostly designed me or by Comme des Garcons. I use wool and cashmere or cashmere only for knitwear

Your button down shirts have to change with the season.

My button downs are all cotton poplin or silk. I prefer silk in winter because cotton isn’t warm enough.

Ditch the bleach: the time has probably passed for your blonde moment.

Please don’t dye your hair peroxide blond unless you are 20 years old or look like Marilyn Monroe

Chichi has never set foot in a slipper: the paragon of perfection would never ruin an outfit with a pair dreaded house shoes.

Even in her downtime inside her impeccable apartment, she’s dressed to the nines in a pair of heels and ne’er a hair out of place. I never wear slippers at home. I wear regular shoes, I clean the soles and then I walk inside the house.

Ban all sparkles on your big day, wedding dresses should be totally glitter-free.

I abhor sparkles and rhinestones for weddings. It’s better a red dress than a crazy one! It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first or fifth marriage, no crystals!

Design

Wall painting isn’t just for cavemen and toddlers, the bamboo stalks that decorate her powder room were hand painted by artisans.

I love decorated walls in the style of Mongiardino. If you have your walls decorated it means you had to think about it and then think again. It’s not something like wallpaper that can be duplicated. It’s meant to stay.

Don’t let your collections corral you, keep an open mind when looking for art or objects to decorate your home while travelling or shopping.

I don’t like to collect; collections close your mind. You depend on finding that thing and when you travel or go shopping you only look for that specific thing, so you miss the rest.

Monotone decorating is a major bore, always add a kick of colour to your house.

I can do black and white, but there should always be something colourful in contrast. I don’t like rigidity.

Housekeeping & Closets

Switch it up each season. A well-oiled closet needs a once-over each spring and fall.

All summer clothes are on an upper rack during winter. I have curtains between the summer and winter parts of my wardrobe and exchange them every season.

For bedsheets, linen is luxe and vintage is king.

I use only light linen bedsheets. I have old ones from my family. They’re from my trousseau, which you inherit when you get married. But I also buy them, especially old ones, when I travel.

Chichi’s closets are as locked down as Fort Knox and twice as organised. She stores knitwear folded, divided by colour and weight, while dresses and blouses are hung according to length of sleeve.

I like to be able to see everything right in front of me.

Tabletops

Treat every meal like a banquet, even if you’re solo.

I change table setting and plates each day even if I’m dining alone at home, it’s very important. If I don’t do it for myself how am I supposed to do it for other people too? Every day I use tablecloth and put candles and flowers on my table.

The tablecloth may be the canvas of the meal, but never, ever mix with a placemat. Meroni winces at even the thought of it

Tablecloths are always white, in damask cotton, some with red or blue borders. I also use mats, but it always depends on the table because if it’s too fragile you shouldn’t use them. But never mix the two! If you want a kick of colour, flamboyant flatware is approved. I love bright coloured plates with white tablecloths

Pay attention to your fork placement, Meroni insists on doing things a little differently.

I put the fork next to the plate, not on the napkin, this is how I was taught.

More glasses = more fun.

I love to mix cutlery and glasses, you can use a coloured glass for white wine when you have three glasses for acqua (water), vino rosso (red wine) and vino fino (white wine, literally ‘fine wine’, this is how they used to call it in the past).

– Laura Todd


Story Credits
  • Creative Director - J.J. Martin
  • Location Photography - Mattia Iotti

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