The Artful Touch: designer Alessandra Rich wears Christian Dior blazer, Paige jeans and Jimmy Choo pumps. In the background, artworks from a 1973 Pirelli calendar by Allen Jones and a 1960s dining table by Eero Saarinen.
A doyenne of elegant eveningwear, this designer’s chic creations are regular head turners on the red carpet. Here, in an exclusive excerpt from Porter, she shares her beautiful London home and art collection
Photography by Alexia Silvagni | Words by Lauren Cochrane
If a stroll down Mount Street brings welcome respite from the whirl of London’s W1, Alessandra Rich’s apartment has an atmosphere that is even more rarefied. While boutiques and elegant cafes have brought the area an upscale village feel, the 47-year-old designer has lived here for 20 years. “It was not a fashion street as it is now,” she remembers. “When we moved here, it was very residential with a lot of galleries.”
Vanilla Sky: Rich wears her own design with Christian Louboutin pumps, a vintage Rolex given to her by her husband Steven and her square-cut diamond wedding ring.
Rich knows about the exactitudes of aesthetics. Now four years old, her label has been built on a concise set of signatures – long, lean dresses using lace, jersey and ultra-feminine details like bows. “It’s a very niche way of dressing,” she says, with a lilting accent that betrays her Italian roots. “It's what I dream a woman will look beautiful in. This philosophy may be due to a childhood spent surrounded by fairy-tale scenery, just outside of Venice. "Where I come from is famous for Palladian villas along the Brenta river,” she says. “It is a very romantic part of Italy.” Now a self-styled Londoner, Rich’s background comes out in little details, for instance today's espresso is served in tiny china cups with a Florentine design.
Self-taught, Rich dabbled in interiors and property before discovering fashion at the age of 41. On the art world event circuit, she was frustrated with the limits of eveningwear. “I just wanted something easy to wear for a dinner,” she says. “Maybe I transmit that to other women.” Her designs are now worn by stars including Diane Kruger and Meryl Streep but the business has grown through personal recommendations. “I receive emails from clients saying, I got so tired of telling people where my dress was from,” she beams.
With word-of-mouth success comes an increasing pile of orders. The couple work side by side, with a small staff, in an apartment below their home, converted into an office and atelier. Homebodies at heart, come evening they head upstairs to watch movies. “I repeat them,” Rich confesses. “I never tire of seeing something that I like.”
Mount Street and the Mayfair area is an apt place for Rich and her work. It is glamorous but with the charm of tradition, thanks to its proximity to Savile Row and the understated chic of the art crowd. Rich believes it has the best of everything: “We are five minutes away from Oxford Street and here it is quiet. Residents tend to be quite private but there is a sense of belonging.”
As aficionados of the local antique and art dealers, they carefully consider all new additions to the apartment. “We have rules regarding the house. If something isn’t the right colour, we wouldn’t have it”, she says. Chris Levine’s striking hologram portrait of Kate Moss is a recent acquisition it hangs in the living room. “I said to Steven, I cannot live without her,” she adds, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
If her own work provides an easy solution for after dark, Rich’s daytime uniform is equally chic. Tall and svelte, with olive skin and a mane of butterscotch hair, she does not need much adornment. Today she teams black Acne Studios jeans with a loose black T-shirt and Chloe’ boots, accessorised with a vintage Rolex (a gift from Steven), a Bottega Veneta gemstone bracelet, her square-cut diamond wedding ring and a classic scarlet manicure. “I’m so boring,” she jokes. “I’m obsessed with few things, and that is my style.”
Rich’s hectic schedule needs such simple formulas, but they also come from a confidence acquired in her forties.” At this age, you go with something you know and you like, that you will like tomorrow and the day after,” she says. “I’m not that sort of woman who says, ‘Let’s try’ – never. I’m always sure.” And, judging by this apartment, she is always right, too.