With the kind of stylish pedigree that reads like a who’s-who of the upper crust, our January cover star, Bianca Brandolini, is no ordinary style icon.
The Italian-Brazilian face of Cartier’s Paris Nouvelle Vague collection grew up in Paris, the daughter of Count Ruy and Countess Georgina Brandolini d’Adda. Her mother, a Brazilian princess, was a long-time muse of Valentino, raising her children with the likes of Claudia and Naomi running in and out of the house. Her grandmother’s brother was the heir to the Fiat throne, his wife Marella one of Truman Capote’s famous ‘swans’.
It’s unsurprising then that with a family tree like this that her star was set to rise. We sat down with the designer, model and actress on our January issue cover shoot to chat style in Dubai and beyond…
You grew up surrounded by amazing designers, from Valentino to Giambattista Valli. Who’s your favourite to wear?
Both of those, but also Dolce & Gabbana and now Gucci is near the top of my list. Alessandro Michele is doing an amazing job. In just two seasons everyone is talking about him – and buying him. Everything is changing right now. Alber Elbaz, he was at Lanvin for 15 years, suddenly he’s not there any more. And the same with Dior. Everything moves so fast now. And I’m the first one who’s very scared about changes in life in general.
In that vein, then, Dubai is so much about change and evolution. What are your thoughts on it?
I’ve visited twice – once for my dad’s 60th birthday when he organised a trip with all his friends to stay at the Burj Al Arab. I remember swimming with dolphins. Then I came back about a month or so ago and went to Abu Dhabi to see the mosque, which is beautiful. Then I went to the Ferrari Centre to try the fastest rollercoaster. To be honest, it was probably the most dramatic experience of my life… I was with my best friend Eugenie [Niarchos, of Greek shipping dynasty fame] and at the end of it we looked at each other and went: ‘What just happened? Let’s get out of here now.’ I’m glad we did it though because the photos we have are ridiculous. Maybe if I do it again it will be when I have a little boy.
Did your preconceptions of the place change?
Not really. When you hear people talking about Dubai it’s funny because they’re talking about a bubble somewhere. You can’t really explain the city. When someone says ‘how was Dubai?’ I say I loved it and I had so much fun. The shopping malls, everything… it’s a huge market and doing so well. And people are so nice and everything is clean and perfect. Like Disneyland and Vegas! It’s slightly unreal. I was looking at these girls yesterday and most were wearing the abaya, but they had these fancy glasses and amazing shoes. I’m dying to see what they have underneath because I’m sure it’s the latest look from the Louis Vuitton show. I think the abaya is very chic. I think it wouldn’t work on me, but I like it a lot.
Let’s talk about Cartier – what are your memories of the brand before you started working with them?
My grandma has a lot of vintage Cartier. And I love jewellery – what woman doesn’t love Cartier, if they love jewellery? My first watch was the Cartier Pasha that my dad gave me when I was 16. Then I was obsessed with the Love bracelet and the Clou. The red box alone is enough to make you smile. I think everybody loves it as it’s about tradition. I think it’s something really important, especially if you want it to last. But in a way they’re always innovating too. But they still keep these classic pieces that just sell and sell… look at the Love bracelet. Yesterday in the mall here I saw at least three customers trying it on. One is never enough!
So would you say you’re quite traditional in your style and philosophy on life?
Yes! I have a huge family on my dad’s side and we’re very Italian. I have the best family in the world. We’re all very close and everyone has an opinion on everything.
You travel so much, where’s your favourite place you’ve visited?
I want to say Japan would be but I’ve actually never been. I was amazed when I went to India, though. The beauty of the country, how chic the women are, the colours, the way they dress, the jewellery…
Who influences you style-wise?
Marella Agnelli, the wife of my grandmother’s brother. She was one of Truman Capote’s original ‘swans’. I remember my mum dressing up a lot to go out. My parents travelled a lot so I guess when they were at home I was hanging out a lot in their room.
They were always having parties. That’s how I met Giambattista Valli. My grandmother is incredible. Even when we’re having lunch alone in her house in Paris or Venice, everything she wears is beautiful. Everything was made for them. When she was ordering a Dior dress she had to try it six times before it was ready. It took almost a year to have it made.
Now even a haute couture dress can be ready in a month. Things change. I’m not saying that they’re not beautiful, but it’s not the same. I see how she packs, she puts tissue paper in-between everything. Who packs like that? And she has her bed ironed every morning and every night.
Tell us more about your youth with all these fabulous designers around.
For me, it was normal. The other day I went to Place Vendome to Valentino’s office, they still have the same office where I used to go when I was a little girl. I was obsessed with doing the fittings. There were two chairs there for Giancarlo [Giammetti, honorary president of the house] and Valentino and the models were were walking in front of them. It was my favourite thing. I would go every night, just for an hour as they would end at 5am, and I would sit with them and be amazed by these beautiful, tall models trying on these incredible clothes. The other day I went and saw exactly the same scene… but it’s not them anymore.
Did you always know you would go into fashion?
No because my mum was always telling me she didn’t want me to do it! I think she saw how models were treated. I was dancing a lot so I thought that would be my career. Then I was loving going to the movies so I enrolled in a cinema school. I do lots of things now. I’m a naturally curious person so it keeps me moving forward.
Check out the behind the scenes of our Bianca Brandolini fashion shoot:
Pick up the January issue of Emirates Woman to read the full interview with Bianca.
Style Director: Jade Sprowson
Stylist: Carmel Gill
Photography: Andoni + Arantxa