The Milan boutique that’s bucking the trend of online buying and fast fashion in favour of bespoke, handcrafted pieces made with the finest materials, and a shopping experience like no other.

By PHOEBE TULLY

ON A NARROW street in the beating heart of Milan’s thriving fashion district, sits a building that houses an Aladdin’s cave of delights — a retail store that looks more like a residence, yet is neither a fashion boutique nor a furniture store, but something else entirely: a place to relax, have tea, chat and try on clothes and inspect furniture if something catches your eye. From the wardrobes to the clothing, everything is detailed and handcrafted with exquisite care, and each item can be customised to suit a range of needs and tastes.

Fittingly named L’Appartamento, the unusual boutique is the brainchild of Fabio Mascheroni, founder of Ludovica Mascheroni, an Italian luxury home decor and haute couture brand.

Spanning three levels and 250 square metres of floorspace, the fit-out for L’Appartamento was completed in September 2021 at a cost of one million euros ($AU1.5 million). Full of voluptuous curves, pale timber and soft furnishings, each level has its own aesthetic. On the ground floor, where oak (Mascheroni’s favourite timber) prevails, you’ll find couture as well as the brand’s most iconic furnishings. The first floor, characterised by maple finishes, is dedicated to women’s fashion and homewares. There’s a suite, which becomes a fitting room, and a dining space with a hideaway kitchen, and a living area furnished with a sofa, armchairs and a bookcase, as well as artistic wooden panelling – an assortment of impeccably designed objects for every facet of life. In the basement, there is menswear, closets and walk-in closets surrounded by cedar, and a lounge space with a mobile bar and a tearoom. “It’s like being at home,” Mascheroni says. “The men normally sit and have coffee or a whisky while the women shop.”

The designer’s unconventional approach to retail arose from an astute understanding of consumer shopping habits. “I wanted to invite people to enter our shop with the clothes,” Mascheroni reveals.

“People go into a furniture shop two or three times in their lives — when they get married or want to change their sofa — but with fashion, people go twice a year, minimum. For this reason, I wanted to invite customers into the fashion store, where they could then advance. They have a sensation not usually found in a furniture shop, and start to think about their apartment,” he says.

“All the most important fashion brands do furniture now,” Mascheroni says. “I went the other way: I started with furniture.”

Mascheroni’s journey into fashion design began with a wardrobe. “When I finished the wardrobe design, we went to buy some clothes to place in it for the photography — but they weren’t the right clothes for our wardrobe. I started to design some for us to use, with the best fabrics and stitching. In the beginning, it was just for that, but after a few months, the clothes became a passion. Now it’s almost three years since I proposed the first collection.

 “Dressing furniture and people is not so different. The people like our style, but it’s the quality they recognise. It was a natural evolution.”

Just like at home, the company is surrounded by family.

Mascheroni’s three teenage children are already involved as the next generation of the business. “During Salone del Mobile, Ricardo and Lorenzo wanted to help me until 5am to install the new wardrobe,” Mascheroni recalls fondly. “I told them to go home to Mama because they needed to go to school tomorrow, but they wanted to stay until we finished,” he says. “My heart is full.”

For Mascheroni, business has always been about family. “I started this job when I was very young,” he says. “I started working in the family business when I was 15, and it was a passion for me even then to be with my father and my grandfather in the factory.

“I first learned about the quality then, because my father drew a classic chair, all carved by hand. After many years, I understood that the market was going in the other direction, and I decided I wanted to design the best furniture in any material. I started experimenting to understand all the options — marble, leather, timbers. I spent a lot of time in Tuscany understanding leather. After that experience, I started my own company.”

Like family, the approach to craftsmanship is another through line of the Ludovica Mascheroni brand. “For anyone who works in our factories, it’s almost a competition to see who can make the best product! Our clients want to directly know the people who make their products. I will also show a picture of the client to our workers and say, ‘This is your client, please make it for them.’”

Mascheroni says it’s important to work with your “hands, passion and heart”, and this approach is inextricably linked to the idea of luxury. “Luxury, for me, is any detail. In choosing the best materials— the best marble, the best timber, the best leather — seeing the detail in those materials, that is luxury for me.

“In our showroom, we recently finished the master bedroom. Last night when I finished work, I stopped by and stayed for 20 minutes just to look at it. Luxury is to see the beautiful in the world.”