Sandra J. Ley

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA034

Luxury bohemian style defines the Milanese house of Etro. Gerolamo “Gimmo” Etro established his textiles company in 1968. After traveling in northern Africa and the Far East, he returned to his native Italy with a hoard of exotic fabrics. The textiles’ bold colors, striking prints, and rich cultural heritage inspired Gimmo to reproduce the designs on top-quality silks, cashmeres, linens, and cottons. Soon, the finest couture and ready-to-wear designers in Europe were coming to Gimmo for their textiles, now produced at the Etro factory in Como, a town east of Milan.

In 1981, Gimmo introduced fabrics featuring India’s paisley motif, which quickly became the company’s symbol. It has since been featured regularly, in its traditional form as well as in seemingly endless, creative variations, on all Etro product lines. Home furnishing fabrics also appeared in 1981.

The label’s flagship store was opened in 1988 and stocked ties, scarves, and shawls featuring the utterly unique Etro fabrics. The product line soon expanded to include luggage and their now-classic handbags made from a PVC-coated burgundy paisley jacquard. In the late 1980s, home accessories and ready-to-wear collections were added.

Gimmo’s four children were involved in the company from an early age. On Saturdays, they were brought to the offices and given fabric remnants to play with. Their early creative efforts helped to determine what roles they would play in the future. Ippolito (b. 1967) is the chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Jacopo (b. 1962) is the creative director of the accessories, leather, home, and textile collections, as well as head of communications. In 1982, Kean (b. 1964) began at the company as an intern. By 1989, he had developed the label’s perfumes division and, since 1990, he has designed the menswear collection. Kean also worked on the women’s wear collection until Veronica (b. 1974), a graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design in London, took over in 2000. Patriarch Gimmo remains president and oversees operations.

The children inherited Gimmo’s love of faraway places, and the curating habits of their mother, an antiquarian. After traveling, they return with treasure troves of fabrics, vintage and ethnic pieces, tribal and ecclesiastical garments, photos, and books on costumes and textiles. Using these items as their point of departure, the siblings develop new textile designs and color directions for each collection. Etro’s signature palette of orange, fuchsia, and purple attest to their love of vibrant—even clashing—mixes of colors and prints. Bold florals, revamped paisleys, ethnic, folk, and abstract prints are sprinkled liberally on mix-and-match separates in both men’s and women’s wear. Women’s wear collections show a predilection for softly tailored pieces as well as feminine, boho-style dresses and caftans.

A family-owned company, the House of Etro is headquartered in two palaces on the Via Spartaco in Milan, and has over thirty stores worldwide. Collections include textiles, bespoke suits (in Milan), menswear, women’s wear, beachwear, home goods, accessories, eyewear, bags, footwear, and fragrances.

Etro, Spring/Summer 1998 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

Reference and Further Reading

Find in Library Epiro Stephanie. ““Mix Master”.” Daily News Record 35, no. 2 (January 10, 2005): 38 .

Etro.” Voguepedia, n.d. .

Family Portraits.” Etro, n.d. .

Find in Library Kaiser Amanda. ““Etro in Growth Mode”.” Women’s Wear Daily 191, no. 95 (4 May 2006): 3 .

Find in Library Martin J. J. ““A Fashionable Life: Veronica Etro”.” Harper’s Bazaar 3576 (November 2009): 242 .

Find in Library Lo Vetro Gianluca, and Samuele Mazza. Etro . Milan : Leonardo Arte, 1998.