Designer Sean Dix capitalizes on Franco Moschino's spirited legacy at company headquarters in Milan.
Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 7/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Franco Moschino loved surrealism, pop culture, and the power of mass production. Since the irreverently charismatic designer's untimely death in 1994, his closest collaborator, Rossella Jardini, has carried the banner for his company, expanding it from cheeky fashion to perfume and accessories. She's also been committed to maintaining the founder's humor and personality.
Always essential to Moschino the man and Moschino the brand, playfulness is particularly evident at the company's Milan headquarters by designer Sean Dix—who previously employed plenty of it for the Moschino boutique on Via Sant'Andrea. "Humor is like a fine detail. It's rich in message and reveals a point of view," says Jardini, now creative director.
Situated in the city's garment district, near the central train station, the headquarters occupies two connected buildings. The street-front one is 19th-century; behind lies a courtyard and the second one, which dates to the mid-20th century. With four levels apiece, totaling 41,000 square feet, the buildings have more than enough space to accommodate the 100 employees in three main departments: design, sales, and communications for all the Moschino brands, including Cheap and Chic as well as Studio Moschino.
The first indication of the company's sass and style is the entry, a pair of 15-foot-high doors painted bright red in contrast with the gray Milanese streetscape. Inside, staff and visitors immediately encounter Domenica, a felt cow that's nearly life-size. Why a cow? She's a tribute to the real-life one that once grazed the front lawn of Franco Moschino's country house in Lodi.
Picking up on Domenica's coloration, black-and-white striped fabric upholsters the Louis XV–style bergères and settees in reception, the most formal space on-site. Dix & Co installed flooring of travertine, filled with transparent resin, and surfaced the end wall in white back-painted glass. In 'front of this reflective plane stands a credenza in mirror-polished laser-cut stainless steel that looks like lace—a trompe l'oeil joke that Franco Moschino would surely have appreciated.
Those who opt not to take the elevator up to the offices and showrooms in the 19th-century building are rewarded by the grace of the central stairwell, the arabesques of its wrought-iron balustrade framing a constellation of George Nelson pendant fixtures. Antique Italian settees, placed in front of vitrines holding vintage Moschino handbags, are upholstered in fabric by Piero Fornasetti, once a dear friend of Franco Moschino. "The simplicity of the architecture plays a supporting role for the strong personality of the brand," explains Dix.
That personality makes its most direct appeal to buyers in the front building's three showrooms. "In this industry, showrooms change dramatically throughout the year," says Dix. "Sometimes they're vacant. Sometimes they're filled beyond capacity." To address this challenge, he conceived of the wide-open spaces as a series of modules that maintain elegance and order by accommodating many or few garments with the addition or removal of display racks in brushed stainless steel.
When not meeting customers in the showrooms, most of the staff can be found in a handful of communal workrooms in both buildings. The rooms' white walls, rough oak flooring, and rows of black aniline-dyed oak Parsons tables look much more "design studio" than "multinational corporation." Private 'offices—most clustered at the top of the front building—are equally simple, verging on monastic. (Jardini's office is on the third floor of the rear building.)
The tone lightens considerably in the eight conference rooms, where Dix went white-on-white with Aluminum Group chairs by Charles and Ray Eames surrounding oval tables by Vico Magistretti. Against this snowy backdrop, it's the original artwork that grabs most of the attention: Franco Moschino does René Magritte, among other examples.
Whimsy truly takes over in the staff café, a corner room that juts into the central courtyard. For the top of each square table, Moschino windows and interiors designer Jo Ann Tann created a miniature farm scene of carved-polystyrene rolling hills, dotted with leafy trees and contented cows fashioned in other model-making materials. A clear acrylic case transforms this fanciful landscape into the quintessential dining surface for a group of individuals who pride themselves on embracing unconventional ideas—and keeping Franco Moschino's moxie alive and strutting.