‘Anyone Who Is Interested in the Brand of Your Watch Is Not a Good Person’

PHOTO by Etro / Facebook
Jacopo Etro, the furniture maker who taught Russians good taste

In early December, an interior design store opened on Petrovsky Passage, Etro Casa, part of the Etro House. The store sells furniture and decorative items. Etro’s Creative Director, Jacopo Etro, came to Moscow for the opening and talked to Lenta.ru, why he decided to open this store during the crisis and about his collection of contemporary art.

Why has the Etro House decided to open an interior design boutique in Moscow?

Jacopo Etro: It was important to us to display our living room and bedroom furniture collections in Moscow: beds, sofas, banquettes. We haven't shipped the whole collection yet, but it’s already a lot, taking into account that before we only had our pillows and blankets here. Our furniture is good for creating new ideas, for setting the tone of the whole interior. I'm hopeful for a future expansion of our store so that our customers can surround themselves with our products, if they are so inclined, without limiting themselves to just decorative items.

The economic situation is very problematic right now. Are you sure it’s the right moment to be opening?

Yes, I think that crisis is not a bad time for new projects. When other brands, our competitors, are being careful, you take a chance and pull ahead. Maybe your launch won’t be as impressive as during the boom years, but it’s a launch nevertheless, it’s moving forward.

Why should the customers pay attention to your furniture line at a time when people are limiting their expenses, especially on big-ticket items?

Because these things are hand-made, by Italians: everything that’s sold under the Etro Casa brand is produced exclusively in Italy. We even stopped ordering pillows from India, like we did before. We also make customised furniture, so our clients can get exactly what they dreamed of. Even the largest order is carried out with maximum precision. It’s more expensive, but the quality is excellent.

Etro russia
Jacopo Etro

What makes an Italian house different from non-Italian?

I don’t think the differences are that big. But to us Italians, it’s important that our house expresses our individuality. People choose houses for themselves, not to impress their guests and neighbours. An Italian won’t order a whole interior design, something that he won’t be able to change at all, even if it's just moving a vase. We decide ourselves how our house will look because we are the ones who will live in it. Of course, working with an architect is necessary, at least in the planning stages. You need to plan where the plumbing will go, where the wires will be, etc. But we don’t let strangers tell us what to do, even about little things.

And how does your house look like?

My house is what in English is called “home” rather than a “house.” It's not just a pretty building, but a place where you feel safe and protected, warm and cosy. My home is my comfortable environment. To make a house into something like this you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money. You can just paint the walls in your favourite, special colour. I prefer that to blank white walls.

You seem pretty independent in your tastes. For example, you wear a Swatch.

Well, first of all, I just like the model. I’ve been wearing it for twenty years and I am glad it’s still being produced. Secondly, I don’t like things to do with status. I choose my car so that it will drive well and work without breaking down, not due to its make. My Audi has been working for ten years already and I don’t intend on replacing it, since it’s still working well. When it breaks down and can’t be repaired, I will buy a new one. I don’t like showing off. People should not be judged on the basis of their watch, human individuality is what’s important. Anyone who's interested in the brand of your watch is not a good person (laughs).

Many Russians won’t agree with you, there are lots of people here who collect watches.

I don’t have anything against collections. I have several family items made in 1920s and 1930s, which I got from my granddad. They are beautiful, but I don’t wear them. I prefer collecting art, mostly German contemporary art. I like Stephan Balkenhol; I have a few of his works. I love Henry Moore's 1950s statues, contemporary British sculptors, like Tony Cragg. I love sculpture for its volume, the fact that it is three dimensional.

I have photos by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Robert Mapplethorpe in my collection. As for paintings, I prefer old masters. Photography replaced painting in contemporary art. I like to discover new names too. Buying a piece by a famous artist is too easy. He is already famous, trendy, there’s nothing for you to discover. When you buy a new artist’s work, you're taking a risk, you don’t know whether he will be famous or not. But you can be absolutely sure that you are buying what you want, not what critics and fashion tell you to.

Etro 2412412412
Etro Creative Director Jacopo Etro and actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite at the opening of Etro Home, an Italian luxury brand, in Moscow

Some famous fashion houses, such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, create their own art foundations, museums, where they display their collections. Are you planning on doing something like that?

Maybe sometime in the future. I am not the only to collect art: my father had a good collection of Italian paintings from the early 20th century, Arte Povera Italiana artists from the 1960s, like Lucio Fontana, Giorgio Morandi. I believe that a family collection should be preserved as a whole, that the heirs should not split it, or sell it for a quick profit. I truly respect Russian collectors, like Shchukin in the early 20th century or Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova today. So I am trying to get my relatives, the co-owners of Etro House to think about establishing an art foundation. Maybe some day we will talk about the Etro Foundation.

What do you think оf Russian artists?

I barely know any contemporary ones. I like constructivists, Malevich, Kandinsky. They were truly unique.