Cavalli e Nastri - A Milanese Treasure Trove

Originally published 11th May, 2016

Any style enthusiasts in search of a refreshing antidote to "conveyer-belt fashion" - a sartorial remedy potent enough to combat the most dubious of clothing manufacturers - will find instant solace in the ethos of vintage collections. In as much as ethical labels have made notable overtures in spotlighting the importance of sustainable fashion (with traceable origins to verify their "eco" status), the very essence of vintage operates under the same meaningful premise: to purchase and showcase garments embued with a unique backstory. Whether scrolling through "pre-loved" pieces on digital marketplaces or perusing real-life equivalents in vintage boutiques, it's nearly impossible not to gaze upon a striking piece and begin contemplating its journey over the last several decades. A violet taffeta gown might have graced the finest ballrooms in 20th century mainland Europe, while a subtly-decorated gold pendant - though unassuming in appearance - may have began its existence as a heart-felt heirloom, devised to be passed down through countless generations. The same curiosity is felt whilst looking at vintage fashion editorials, from models clad in vivid 60s mini-dresses to pared-back 90s photoshoots. Where have these designer pieces finally claimed residency; in the sought-after closets of fashion industry figures, or tucked away in the highest calibre of vintage specialist shops across the globe?

Prior to departing for a recent, whirlwind visit to North Italy, the creative founder of Chantilly Shop (an online vintage haven that I'll be speaking more of very soon) spoke animatedly of a Milanese boutique named Cavalli E Nastri, boasting two locations in the heart of the fashion capital. Given her penchant for individualistic accessories in a rainbow of shades (I'm especially taken by her "flower-power" brooches from the 1980s) I knew to place implicit trust in her sartorial suggestions. My trip schedule could only accomodate one boutique within Milan's parameters, so I decided to choose its first incarnation; a beacon of colour and print that has garnered widespread domestic and international acclaim since its inception a quarter of a century ago. Its current address, however, was inaugurated in 2001 - a radiant vintage-design hub in the city's bohemian Brera district:

Stepping into the boutique's striking entrance room, it quickly became clear that its founder had achieved a near-impossible feat; harnessing the vivacious spirit embued in the surrounding creative quarters and fusing it with a streamlined shop layout and polished aesthetic. It thus comes as no surprise that myriad fashion editors, stylists and industry insiders garner regular inspiration from each enthralling display, be it for luxury pret-a-porter editorials or their own vintage-shopping wishlists. Colour-coding is a visible strong suit for any Cavalli e Nastri assistant - rather than contrast diverse shades on garment rails, harmonious hues are juxtaposed with an assortment of luxury prints. Continual attention-to-detail is another prevalent feature - the interior decorations on display, in particular, give the boutique's well-curated rooms a convivial atmosphere. The flamingo standing proudly alongside fuschia blazers and authentic Pucci prints is one eye-catching example, while an assemblage of colourful sculptures dancing across one cerise wall couldn't help but make onlookers break into a smile!

Given the impeccable condition of each creation on display, prices are matched accordingly - a colourful 1970s Gucci scarf retailed at circa €135 (a coveted addition to any SS16 wardrobe, thanks to the genius of Alessandro Michele) while a printed silk blazer derived from Gianni Versace's 90s reign could set you back almost €1,500. For those unfazed by designer labels, however, there are a plethora of unique options firmly rooted in double figures. Costume jewellery aficionados will gravitate towards the kaleidoscope of statement earrings and embellished brooches, while manys a vintage floral shirt can be purchased for just €25. This versatile aspect of Cavalli e Nastri's price range ensures that the boutique could never fear straying into ostentatious territory. Its shop assistants are friendly and informative, but equally respectful of those who prefer to drink in their vivid surroundings without interruption. As I explored the vintage hub's two generously-stocked rooms, I soon stumbled upon a display filled with sculpted-rose rings and aforementioned costume brooches. My gaze locked onto a 60s embellished yellow design that instantly reminded me of my grandmother's floral breastpins; the perfect finishing touch to any delicate silk blouse or 1950s fine-wool cardigan. Its retail price of €35 was far too reasonable to leave behind - any colourful style purveyor with a love of vintage would find it impossible to depart from the boutique empty-handed:

Whether you're a long-standing Milanese resident or a north Italy neophyte, Cavalli e Nastri gives style enthusiasts of all tastes and budgets an indispensable gateway into the city's vintage scene. Visiting its Brera residence is just the tip of the iceberg - Cavalli e Nastri's additional location on Via Gran Giacomo Mora comprises two abundant boutiques, one dedicated to menswear and another boasting a collection archive that even encompasses 19th century creations. As I said my goodbyes and re-emerged onto Via Brera, I felt utterly convinced that if those vintage pieces could talk, they would regale us with the most incredible of anecdotes.

Cavalli e Nastri is located on Via Brera, 2 (where the above images were captured) and Via Gran Giacomo Mora, 12 & 3 - click "here" to visit its website, where additional information on all boutiques can be found, while "here" will transport you to its eclectic online shop (I have my eye on this beautiful 60s flora fascinator!) You can follow the boutiques on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for colourful shop announcements and daily sartorial inspiration.

Amelia xx

La Femme Éclectique