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“Everybody, this is Olivier,” she calls out to the dining-room buffet, where people have started lining up for risotto.“Olivier, this is everybody.” She leads him onto the dance floor, throwing shapes to the dueling bongo drums played by Giacomo and Franco Loro Piana, scions of the family that until recently owned the eponymous clothing line.She’s renting (property taxes for foreigners are brutal) from an elderly marquesa who inhabits an apartment on the top floor. “She gets excited when I tell her I’m doing a photo shoot here.” Goga has on black Capri pants, tall boots, and a halter top that looks like an umpire’s chest protector, except that it’s 100 percent mink fur and has a mint-green stripe running up the middle. when the guest of honor arrives: Olivier Zahm, the editor of Purple, a Parisian fashion magazine with a lot of nudity.He wears a motorcycle jacket, aviator sunglasses, and a baseball cap.Her proudest moments were giving birth to two sons via what she calls her “close friendship” with Timur Kulibayev, a Kazakh oil billionaire in his own right and, for two decades and counting, the son-in-law of the country’s president. Despite all that, it wasn’t until 2012, when she bought the historic fashion house Vionnet and installed herself as the chief designer, that she felt she’d begun to find her place in the world.“Goga has a very can-do-it attitude,” says her friend Gianluca Longo, a stylist in London. To me, fashion is art.” Growing up in Moscow, where her father served in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Central Committee, Goga lived for clothes. I saved every issue of Burda Moden—the German magazine with patterns that they allowed us to get. Diplomats brought them back.” For ten months preceding the acquisition, she holed up in Florence—less a hole, really, and more a 28-room villa on 80 hectares with an adjoining ten-room guesthouse, frescoes by Michelangelo, and a smashing view of the Duomo. “I studied history of art from nine to 12 and then, in the afternoon, outside activities: painting en plein air, or we went to museums.” “It was a very nourishing era in her life,” says Goga’s good friend Eva Cavalli, the onetime Miss Universe finalist who is married to the designer Roberto Cavalli and served as her unofficial adviser during this transitional phase.
“I’m sensitive to what people think of me, because, I admit it, I was tacky at first,” she says, adding that she has learned new things every day. I know the names of hems in Italian.” The people of Milan, she goes on, “have been very welcoming to me.” Throwing a good party, like the one on this November night, is a form of reciprocation.In May 2012, Ashkenazi took a majority stake in Vionnet, a recently re-launched label originally founded by the revolutionary fashion designer Madame Madeleine Vionnet in 1912.By November 2012, her holding company, Go To Enterprises Sarl, gained full control of the brand.“She loves clothes, so she buys a famous old company. Even though all the girls at her school were required to wear brown jumpers, she persuaded the seamstresses working on the ground floor of her apartment building to perform some custom tailoring. “She had parties that lasted for days—murder-mystery weekend, truffle hunting—and we talked about finding the right label to purchase.” Goga considered Ferre. “Owners didn’t put money in like they were supposed to.
It’s like, if you like spaghetti, you decide to buy Barilla.” “My old life wasn’t me,” Goga says. It was three, four years away from being ready.” Also, Ungaro, though here she was too late.
“By then the owner had sold the beautiful boutique on Avenue Montaigne and the licensing business,” Goga says.