MILAN–In this city full of signoras who daylight as purveyors of elegance, fabric designer Lisa Corti is known as a master of laid-back chic. In her boutique in Milan, where traces of black are rarely found, any downcast feelings are washed away by the bonanza of floral and playful geometric patterned fabrics. Inspired by her childhood in Ethiopia and her constant travels to India, she opened a home textiles emporium in 1986. Nearly 30 years later, she runs the company with her daughter Ida, who has helped her propel the business into the 21st century, with a new e-commerce site and an upcoming mens line. Their caftans, bed spreads and bathing suits have captivated a cult following from the Tuscan shores to the Hamptons.
Corti, a woman who gives few interviews, opened up to BACO’s editor-in-chief Sofia Celeste:
Why did you choose India as a destination to make your fabrics?
I was born in Asmara and lived in Ethiopia until I was 19. I remember the beauty of the African people, the ancient decorative tradition and the womens’ brightly-coloured costumes. These memories are my cultural background, the roots underlying my stylistic and creative choices. With my first trip to India in 1976 with my daughter Ida, I discovered an incredibly diverse, rich place, finding an affinity with the Eastern world, especially in the field of textiles, ornaments and colours.
What does India offer that Italy does not?
I choose India and India’s artisans because nothing has changed there over the centuries, from the printing of the fabrics from carved blocks, to the weaving with traditional looms, to the colouring and finishing techniques that are thousands of years old. Each one of my products is a long journey between secrets transmitted by generations of local craftsmen and my personal inspiration: a new contamination between East and West.
I read once that you don’t follow fashion trends. How would you explain your own style?
I do not follow trends, but my sense of colour, light and form, in a constant search for balance between ancient cultures and Western contemporaneity. This is how I would define my style: unique, highly personal and timeless.
For me, style and beauty are not only aesthetic goals, but elements that are an integral part of my everyday life, in my clothes and the furnishings in my home, in an endless game of geometries, elements of nature, intense colours, transparencies and light-heartedness and this ensures that all these different colours and designs blend together to create a special, striking effect.
How would you define yourself? Are you the relaxed Milanese woman — like those you cater to?
Travelling is definitely my passion and the basis of my creative adventure. I love travelling and especially going back to places where I have already been. My best memories are definitely related to trips to India, because I’m interested in everything about that country. It is a bottomless pit of wonder, painting, sculpture and architecture, in addition to all the incredible world of craft that amazes and enriches me every time.
At the same time I love my city, Milan, I like walking around and enjoying its energetic and dynamic atmosphere, the expressions of the people and also discovering hidden corners and secret gardens.
You are now ready to introduce a men’s line. How did you arrive at this decision to branch out into mens wear?
I started working and showing my creations in my home and now my products are exported all over the world and sold by leading stores in the United States, at my Emporium in Milan and franchised shops in Florence, Rome and Turkey. But I think there is always room to grow, many goals to reach and lots of dreams to chase and men collection is one of this challenges as the shoes line designed together with Tania Ercoli.