With a Pilates-toned body and a vegan diet, fashion journalist Donata Sartorio is not your typical legendary lady of Milan. But despite her renegade tendencies, she’s a stickler for The Rules. Here, she presents her personal decrees, as well as the traditional ordinances that guide the Milanese good life.
The idea of searching for style—and not trends—is very Milanese. Women here are used to dressing in uniforms. There’s a certain amount of formality, great culture, also a bit of humor.
I like things with a twist, but nothing crazy. In Milan you can’t go around with short shorts and Botox. It’s frowned upon. There’s still a classicism here.
Children are raised very classically in Milan. Then they run off to university and go crazy, but then they come back, marry a proper Milanese person and return to tradition. It’s very rare that someone marries someone foreign or exotic. The family is fundamental.
Fathers have always gifted their clothes to their sons. But this never happens with women. Vintage is not very Milanese.
Sobriety has always been the rule for Milanese dressing. Now, mothers in their 30s are waking up—a bit too much. They are trying to become free from tradition but without taste, and they make big mistakes. They allow their children to dress like fashionistas. The kids choose everything on their phone and the mother can’t explain anything. It’s a mess.
I do not want to hear “Ciao” from the staff at a restaurant or store. You should never address someone casually unless you know them personally. Never give the Tu to the cleaning lady, either.
I’ve been a vegan for 25 years. At first I was more Taliban about it and tried to convince people, though now I realize that’s useless. But I only ever serve vegan food at dinner, and I only invite people who will eat it.
I like inviting people to dinner who have never met. I mix 30-year-olds with 80- year-olds—that’s when something unexpected happens.
I love preparing the house and the table with a tablecloth and plates that go with my current inspiration. Right now, I am using a lot of green. But it’s always a mix of things—layers everywhere.
I set the table very traditionally, with at least three or four plates [from Conran] stacked on top of each other and bee glasses from Le Caveau de la Porcelaine Blanche in St. Tropez.
When I serve meals, I like to give people possibilities. I use two lazy Susans on the table with different olive oils, umeboshi vinegar, balsamic vinegar, algae and sea salts so you can make your own flavors with the vegetables.
I only do seated dinners at home—usually for 10 people. I have the housekeeper prepare and cut all of the vegetables in advance, then I cook and serve. She comes back to clean up when we’re done.
If I were very rich, I’d buy everything from [Milan homeware shop] Kitchen. They have the best quality pots and pans.
Silver is something you need to clean regularly and use. You shouldn’t put it away. It adds a certain elegance. All my silver comes from my family and my wedding gifts, and I use it daily.
I don’t care to “shine” from the reflection of my dress. I prefer subtle elegance and great quality from brands like Massimo Alba, Alberto Biani and Alberto Aspesi, with a few additions from [the Milanese shop] Pupi Solari. They are casual but hyper-elegant.
It used to be that you couldn’t wear anything too short or too transparent when you were in the city. Now everything is accepted—but I can’t look at it.
My mother was a truly elegant woman who had her clothes custom-made by Italian sartorie. As soon as I could afford to, I dressed in that way, and became obsessed with jackets, pants and shirts from Armani that are still nearly perfect today.
For shoes, I like moccasins by Tod’s and CB Made in Italy. For heels, I do Louboutin, Alaïa and Aquazzura.
I like to stack rings on the same finger. I buy jewelry at Oro, Incenso e Miro in Milan’s Via Mirabello. They have old antiques and old things.
My hair was red my whole life, and I used to hate it. It was too obvious. But now I’ve accepted it. For the dying, I use natural products only and I drink aloe, which helps a lot.
I’ve worn Prada for centuries. My love for Prada now exists more for the big bags, clutches, beauty cases and sandals because the fashion has become a little too “trendy.” However, rummaging between behind the scenes in the shop you can still find little classic things.
Perfume: I love it! I cannot help it, I wear too much in the morning and in the evening. I hate new, basic perfume— “American,” I say. I’ve always used Chanel No. 5, which I love to mix with men’s fragrances like “Chanel pour Monsieur,” or “Eau Sauvage” by Dior. I also like Prada’s “Iris.”
– J.J. Martin