With a shared appreciation for traditional Italian linen, Allegra Marchiorello and Valeria Piovesana Thompson established Once Milano with the aim of re-inventing the textile for the modern day. Demonstrating an unwavering commitment to quality and traditional craftsmanship, Once Milano reflects the belief in a slow pace and process: where items are made with care and detail, where tradition is more precious than trend and where there is a purpose to every piece.
Once Milano is anchored in the concept of slowing down and celebrating the ‘here and the now’. A modern interpretation of traditional linen, each piece in the collection intends to enhance the natural beauty of the present moment and set the tone for memorable moments at home. Once Milano’s linens are timeless, elegant and revel in a luxurious understatement that has become a signature of the brand. Our exclusive collaboration with Once Milano is a modern interpretation of traditional linen, combining subtle luxury with everyday practicality to elevate the everyday dining experience.
Below, Allegra Marchiorello discuss her devotion to linen as a textile, the importance of preserving traditional craft, and on what makes a house a home.
Describe the allure of working with linen. What do you love most about working with the textile as a medium?
I love working with linen for both aesthetic reasons and for its practicality. I love color and texture and I would not be able to achieve the visual impact of our color palette with any textile other than linen. The texture creates the most beautiful lights and shadows in the colors, it just gives a stunning result.
When we first began, many people who were partial to cotton were wary of sleeping in linen, however once they tried it, they found it so much more comfortable. Linen is so breathable which makes it wonderful for regulating your body temperature. And of course, for homeware one of the (many) benefits is that you can easily wash linen items without needing to iron them.
You were born and raised in Italy. Tell us more about how life there has provided the perfect backdrop for Once Milano. Why is it so important to you to work with artisans in Italy?
When me and my partner, Valeria Piovesana, created Once Milano it was from our experience of living abroad and finding it so difficult to find beautiful items for the home that were well made but not fussy. My region is the heartland of traditional textile crafts and so you are just surrounded by people with these amazing skills. As the big companies moved their manufacturing abroad, these artisans suffered and it is very important to me that through Once Milano we are doing our part in retaining this important part of our heritage and knowledge alive through reinterpreting them for a more modern aesthetic and way of life. For example, our macrame napkins are not the same aesthetic style of macrame napkins my grandmother would have owned, but the expertise and craft is very much the same.
Tell us about the color palette in the exclusive collection for &YOU. Where did you look for inspiration?
The inspiration was strongly connected to the idea of middle eastern flora and vegetation, and the colors of the beautiful Charbagh gardens, one of which I recently visited in Palermo – the greens of the cactus, with its intense fuchsia flowers and the burnt orange of the desert sand. The idea of these beautiful gardens where the weather allows you to enjoy being outside most of the year, from inspiring a lovely picnic (the fuchsia picnic blankets) to setting a more formal table, enriched by lovely linen tablecloths, placemats and napkins.
What in everyday life do you find the most inspiring?
I find inspiration in everything around me. All the Once Milano colors are inspired by the nature around me. I like to travel and the natural landscape around me always gives me inspiration for new items. My brother also has a hotel in Tulum and the laid-back lifestyle of the Riviera Maya has really inspired a collection you will be hearing about soon.
What are your styling tips for decorating with linen?
A neutral backdrop is the best way to create a very soothing space that can be adorned/decorated just simply by adding a colorful detail – and linen is perfect for this job. Be it some cushions, a lovely throw at the end of the bed or a napkin on a simple wooden table, the texture of linen brings to life any color, but it doesn’t bind you in a way that colored walls or flooring would.
What makes a house a home?
A house is a blank page where you write your personal story over time, by choosing objects with deeper meaning than their pure aesthetics; adding plants that perhaps remind you of the garden where you grew up, adding books that build your own precious library. Whenever I travel, I like to return home with an object that will be part of my home; it can be a stone, a shell, an object from the past where I can reflect on the story and the culture that has brought it to life. I believe that a house becomes a home with time – especially when you add children.
Can you share your take on how your home (or surroundings) impact your overall well-being?
A home is where people come together to enjoy each others company, a place you can retreat to and truly relax. You can’t do this in a museum and I believe a house should be decorated and lived in accordingly. I have four children, and while there are many pieces of furniture that I admire, they are simply not suitable for my lifestyle at home. Your environment should work in harmony with the life you want to live, not be at odds with it.
I truly believe that a beautiful environment emits a beautiful energy. A little bit of effort in even the small rituals, such as making a cup of coffee – a lovely cup, a napkin, the sugar in a jar rather than a bag – all make a difference in the pleasure of the experience. Rather than saving your effort and touches of beauty for when guests visit, a touch of color – from a throw on the bed to a fringed towel in the bathroom – add something to everyday life.
If the objects in your home could speak, which would have the best story to tell?
I have a very beautiful floor lamp, which was designed by my eclectic mother. The lamp has these beautiful brass recurrent oval shapes that also appear in my mother’s paintings. I had no idea where the inspiration came from. One morning while we were in her kitchen, which has large windows that allow light to pour in, she points out these oval shadows that filter through blinds and I immediately understood her inspiration. It’s just amazing how sometimes the most trivial or anonymous detail can become an inspiration. Inspiration is everywhere, it’s just waiting for someone to notice it.
We are always curious about how artists and designers keep their spark and creative drive while running a business. What’s your process for working on yourself while you’re working on your business?
In a family of six (four kids), with a lovely but demanding house and a job, you can only have time for yourself if you are ready to fight for it! And I have always been; mainly because I believe it is something that the whole family and generally, the people that surround you, will benefit from.
Traveling, reading, visiting a museum or going for a lovely walk in the mountains are just as important as dedicating the right time to your job as a mother or to your business.