MILAN — There’s no shortage of fashion families in Italy: the Etros, the Missonis, the Ferragamos, the Fendis. And now you can add the Castiglionis back to that list.
Two years after stepping away from the luxury label Marni that they founded (and turning the creative role over to Francesco Risso, formerly of Prada), the clan is returning with Plan C, a new Milan-based ready-to-wear brand that they intend to debut this week.
Or, at least most of them are back.
Instead of Consuelo, the matriarch who transformed a heritage fur manufacturer into a sought-after line with its own arty aesthetic, her daughter, Carolina Castiglioni, is at the helm of the new women’s wear label, a fresh start for a new generation.
Still, Gianni Castiglioni, Carolina’s father, is once again chief executive, and her brother, Giovanni, is operations director (he was operations planner at Marni). A cousin, Linda Spagonolo, is the brand’s lookbook model.
Even Plan C’s showroom — a ’60s palazzo decorated with midcentury design pieces, where the introductory presentation is planned for Friday — once belonged to Maria Motta, Carolina’s great-grandmother. It also is the headquarters of Aliita, a jewelry line by her sister-in-law, Cynthia Vilchez Castiglioni.
“Working with your family is a privilege,” Gianni Castiglioni said. “The advantages are quick, immediate decisions, in a work atmosphere where personal relationships are very important.”
Ida Petersson, women’s wear buying director for Browns in London, seconded the idea. “When we heard one of the family was designing Plan C, we felt it very important to see it,” she said. “Walking into that showroom, we weren’t disappointed. There’s a hint of all the favorite silhouettes that we have come to love over the years, but what struck me the most is how Carolina has made it her own — there is a distinct handwriting.”
Indeed, if the Marni woman during Consuelo’s reign spent her time perusing a video gallery for offbeat prints, the one who would be drawn to Carolina’s amalgam of street influences and Old World European style will be a more urban, multitasking type.
According to the 37-year-old designer, who said she is drawn to kooky, jolie laide color palettes of browns and oranges, “It’s about the combinations, really: a mannish shirt worn beneath a dress, geometric crocheted skirt with a pony skin-paneled knitted gilet.” Forms are capacious, whether trousers with paper-bag waists, roomy houndstooth jackets, a patchwork leather blouson or generous knits. Fingertip-length parkas come in unusual hues like ocher, and leather gilets and poplin skirts are cinched lightly with plain leather belts.
“I prefer sequins worn during the daytime,” said the designer, referring to some slouchy metallic-green sequined Bermuda shorts paired with a sweatshirt. The offbeat combination serves as something of an antidote to Milan’s bourgeois codes, and may ensure that her name comes up in the continuing local discussion about the need for new designers to secure the future of Italian fashion.
Also included in the line: wooden clogs called incompiuto, or unfinished, which resemble a shoemaker’s last but with a thick elastic band at the arch, and simple Roman-style leather sandals fancied up with an angled toe.
“It looks different from everything else in the market,” said Marina Larroude, fashion director at Barneys New York, which will sell the first collection.
Ms. Castiglioni wants to keep it that way, preserving what she calls the collection’s “human dimension.”
The debut looks were was created in just four months, but the designer said she thought some of the styles will become permanent offerings.
And while other young brands may draw inspiration from city streets or club scenes, Plan C takes some guidance from an unlikely source: children. Drawings by Ms. Castiglioni’s 4-year-old daughter, Margherita, depicting her brother, Filippo, 6, and her friend Bianca, now appear on the line’s supple leather totes, nylon clutches and sweatshirts. The designer hopes the whimsical sketches will become a form of logo for future collections.
She is doing only two a year — intentionally starting small — and there will be no runway shows.
Ms. Castiglioni comes by her off-kilter attitude naturally. She studied fashion business at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan. At Marni, where she spent about 13 years, she focused on communications, special projects and children’s wear.
Her parents sold the brand to Renzo Rosso’s OTB Group in 2015, and when they left the following year, she did, too, taking a hiatus to spend time with her children.
“I wore a white T-shirt and Bermudas a lot,” she said with a laugh. “I organized play dates; went to kids’ parties; I was even the school class representative. It was another world.”
Ms. Castiglioni admits the family had a lot of conversations during this period. “In January we decided it was a pity to throw away all the know-how we have,” she said. “The great thing about starting over is that you have the experience and maturity to define new rules.”
Is she happy to be back?
“Yes,” she replied, beaming. Then she gestured at some blush pink patent-leather curtains made from offcuts of collection fabric and added, “Like this, yes.”