09.03 EF Magazine
The Dutch magazine unearths the Fashion Designer's world from fashion to her 'animal-free' path


L’Officiel Netherlands‘ discovers the Elisabetta Franchi’s world.

Ethical and Cool.
From an atelier of five to a company with 150 employees. Elisabetta Franchi’s worldview goes beyond fashion to embrace the environment and social issues with an identity as an eco-sustainable and dog-friendly company, an adherence to Animal Free Fashion standards, projects with LAV and four Betty Dolls to condemn femicide.

Elisabetta Franchi is an anti-diva, a strong woman with clear ideas and solid values. In 1996 as a young designer she created Le Complici, her first atelier with five employees. But she was dreaming big, at the same time grateful for her early experiences as a shop assistant. “I learned to observe people and to understand what customers were looking for.” Now 47, Elisabetta is proud of her dreams realized. The eponymous brand counts 150 employees divided between the Bologna headquarters and the new showroom on Via Tortona in Milan, and in the last three years it has reinvented itself as an eco-sustainable and animal-friendly brand. This ethical identity is sealed by the collaboration — printed on the tags — with LAV, the Anti-Vivisection League, and the adherence to Animal Free Fashion standards: “It was a path to awareness, at the heart of which is my love for these creatures. But even before I was never a “huntress”. With the growing success of the brand I felt it a duty to communicate to people what I was already doing at home: I have never had a fur coat and I decided that the few animal-based materials used in the collections, mainly calfskin, could no longer be included. We now only use synthetic fill for our quilted coats and jackets and all other products are ecological. Killing animals to dress is the opposite of being cool.” Elisabetta Franchi is also the first fashion company in Italy to have started a dog hospitality programme that allows employees to bring their puppies to work. “I have five dogs and I wanted the people who work for me to feel free to be defenders of animals.” The 140,000 followers on Instagram are struck by her simplicity, of a woman who on top of being a successful designer is also a companion and mother. “In a world where little has value anymore, I want to convey that having both success and a beautiful family is possible. For too long women have been overwhelmed by stereotypes, like the one where women with careers are unapproachable and have a horrible life. It is not true. Life is so much more, you just have to make some sacrifices.” And she proves it by posting photos of intimate moments with her partner and two children, Ginevra and Leone. With them at her side, she hailed from the catwalk during the latest Milan Fashion Week, an ambition achieved a year ago that made her Italian pride soar: “Though some say our Fashion Week is less important than the others, getting there is still a big step. I do not think it is right that some brands go abroad to show, but in part I do understand them. Let’s hope that signals like the return of Ennio Capasa from Paris to Milan are a step towards change.” In 2012 she took the decision to open up 25% of company shares to Trilantic Capital Partners, a private equity firm specialised in acquiring controlling shares or major minority stakes in companies based in Europe and North America. “I felt like measuring myself with someone who could have input from the inside and had a strong perception of the changes going on. Trilantic’s participation means growth, and I still have a lot farther to take the brand to.” The first opening was towards countries in Southeast Asia from which the Autumn/Winter 2015-16 collection takes inspiration. The collection plays with the classic tones of white, black and geranium red, and is spiced up with the addition of Iris blue. The kimono cut of the sleeves, the wide volumes of the skirts and laced sandals are a strong reference to the Orient. Protagonist of the campaign is the American top model Hilary Rhoda, who like herself has blue eyes and a green soul. “The Elisabetta Franchi woman is strong, aware and beautiful, and to interpret her I want very feminine models. The testimonial is a gorgeous American woman, but she could have been of any nationality, even though few have remained in Italy. Certainly I would never choose the Kate Moss “model”, one of the greats for sure, but too much the object of gossip. I want professionals who have a serious attitude and a clean image inside and out.” She is also very active on social media and because of it has redefined the target of the brand. “Until a few years ago I imagined my customer as a mature woman who felt professionally secure. Today there are adolescents who also follow me; what they have in common is the pleasure of playing with their femininity.” The largest merit of the social networks is the democratisation we see going on in the fashion industry now. “Before it was the fashion powerhouses that decided who to be launched and who to make stand out. Today the customer is not content with just buying a piece of fashion; she wants to know who is behind it. The digital interaction with the public allows us to become known.” But that is never forgetting what she defines as “the spirit of the atelier”: “Only at the shop you can perceive the mood of the brand. The relationship with the customer remains our primary source of inspiration.” Elisabetta Franchi is a designer whose whims are only creative: she dedicated to her daughter the brand’s iconic line of handbags, Ginevra. And to herself, the Betty Doll, initially to support the cause of Jo Squillo against femicide, then reworked for sales with four looks representing the current collection: “I fell in love with the doll during its creation, it is a piece for fashion collectors.” Elisabetta Franchi: a creative entrepreneur, but above all, an authentic woman who keeps moving.