The woman with the most fab­u­lous life on the planet

737,000 fol­low­ers and never know­ingly un­der­dressed. This is the story of how a street style su­per­star was born


from far left red dress, £ 1,245, and shoes, £ 735, both prada; gloves, £ 695, alexan­der mcqueen; ear­rings and neck­lace, both price on re­quest, gi­ampiero bod­ino. Blue Rio dress, £ 4,500, molly god­dard; Tri­on­afa flats, £ 965, manolo blah­nik; ear­rings, about £ 214, shourouk; ring, £ 199, swarovski. Green Ce­les­tial dress, £ 1,995, tem­per­ley london; belt, £ 595, manolo blah­nik; shoes, £ 710, marco de vin­cenzo; ear­rings, price on re­quest, gi­ampiero bod­ino. Faux- fur yel­low coat with plas­tic cover, £ 2,935, crys­tal belt, £ 1,550, and san­dals, £ 730, all

calvin klein 205w39nyc.

Pink silk- satin dress, £ 4,850, gucci; pumps, about £ 1,060, francesco russo; bracelet and neck­lace, both price on re­quest,

gi­ampiero bod­ino;

ear­rings, stylist’s own

Bat Gio, she of the su­per­hero In­sta­gram moniker ( 737K fol­low­ers and ris­ing ), ar­rives at our shoot in London hav­ing had lit­tle sleep. No mat­ter. She is as ir­re­press­ible as her leop­ard-print trouser suit which, nat­u­rally, she posted in a 5am selfie (#my­favourite­colourisan­i­malia). A street­style phe­nom­e­non, de­signer muse and a fash­ion edi­tor for W and Ja­panese Vogue, she lives be­tween New York, Stock­holm and, most re­cently, a pile in the Ox­ford­shire coun­try­side. Mar­ried to Swedish prop­erty de­vel­oper Os­car En­gel­bert, the word ‘glam­orous’ doesn’t even cover it, but what she’s not is a show-off – it’s never, as she puts it, ‘Ah, look at that beetch in those ex­pen­sive clothes!’ –more, this is who I am and what I love so if you like it, come along for the ride.

Cur­rently in the mid­dle of her global book tour for Gio-gra­phy: Fun In The Wild World Of Fash­ion, a 288-page glossy tome that is one part style guide (what to wear to re­cover from a hang­over) to three parts hi­lar­i­ous romp through her ad­ven­tures in fash­ion (from at­tend­ing a White House State din­ner to a Dolce & Gab­bana gown melt­down at the Met gala). She looks like Au­drey Hep­burn, laughs like a drain and her per­sonal style – on dis­play 24/7 – is wildly colour­ful, in­fec­tiously op­ti­mistic and pas­sion­ately de­voted to fash­ion. So, who is the real woman be­hind the fan­tasy fash­ion life?

Gio­vanna Battaglia En­gel­bert, 38, grew up in a cre­ative hot­house. Born and raised in Mi­lan, the heart of Ital­ian fash­ion, her fa­ther is a pain­ter and her mother teaches sculp­ture at the Br­era Fine Arts Academy, where Gio­vanna also stud­ied sculp­ture and art his­tory. ‘It’s that beau­ti­ful, very grand build­ing, you know it, where Bot­tega Veneta held their last show,’ she ex­plains – a typ­i­cal Mi­lanese trait, whereby your lo­cal knowl­edge is noth­ing if you can’t name the grand build­ing ac­cord­ing to which de­signer most re­cently showed in it. She is the sec­ond child of four equally artis­tic sib­lings; her el­dest brother An­to­nio runs an art gallery in Mi­lan, her sis­ter Sara is a fash­ion de­signer and her younger brother Luigi con­structs set de­signs for fash­ion shoots. ‘ We are all very strong per­son­al­i­ties and have many friends in com­mon, so when we all turn up to par­ties to­gether, they say: “Oh, you guys are like the Kardashians of Mi­lan. There are so many of you!”’

De­spite her early ob­ses­sion with clothes and su­per­mod­els, her am­bi­tion was to be­come a scenog­ra­pher at the opera – there was also a mo­ment, at high school, when she considered go­ing into pol­i­tics – but both plans were averted once she started mod­el­ling and, by 1997, the penny had dropped that a ca­reer in fash­ion might be a whole lot more en­ter­tain­ing. She thought, ‘ You know what? If I can’t change the world then I’m just go­ing to make it look bet­ter.’

‘I was not a good model,’ she con­fesses. ‘First of all, I was far too opin­ion­ated and rest­less, it was not like I could stay still for a long time, and sec­ond, I just didn’t have the drive to be good at it. I re­mem­ber Gisele (Bünd­chen) would walk in a room and you felt the en­ergy, she was a like a god­dess with end­less charisma. And I knew I wasn’t that.’

But mod­el­ling gave her the op­por­tu­nity to be in­de­pen­dent and earn her own money – which she promptly blew on clothes: ‘Oh crazy, crazy, crazy stuff that my mum would never buy me, like plas­tic skirts, weird tops, funny boots and, oh, I re­mem­ber, that T-shirt Kate Moss wore in the Gucci cam­paign, when it was [un­der the cre­ative di­rec­tion of ] Tom Ford. It was a for­tune! Ob­vi­ously, my mum was hor­ri­fied that I was spend­ing my money on Gucci, not books or a paint­ing.’

Pic­tur­ing the young Gio­vanna, the gazelle model with a ca­reer in fash­ion only a heart­beat away, liv­ing with her fab­u­lous fam­ily, hav­ing an ap­par­ently per­fect life, I won­der how she dealt with the in­evitable jeal­ousy that must have been trig­gered – and is still trig­gered today? ‘ I tend not to ac­knowl­edge jeal­ousy, I pre­tend it doesn’t ex­ist, so I can ac­tu­ally live,’ she says mat­ter-of­factly. ‘And any­way, we had our prob­lems like any other fam­ily, my par­ents are di­vorced. It wasn’t al­ways fairy tales, let’s say. We went through a very tough time, like many peo­ple do and this makes me how I am, you know, an up and down roller coaster.’

Her first fash­ion gig was with a mag­a­zine called Pig, lo­cated in a garage in Mi­lan’s Br­era district. ‘Hey, I’m a stylist, can I make a story for you?’ she said, reel­ing off her con­sid­er­able con­tacts that she’d made through mod­el­ling. ‘ They said yes, but I paid for ev­ery mis­take,’ she said, which meant us­ing her own money to ship ev­ery­thing via UPS to and from the shoot in Paris. While Gio­vanna never had to en­dure be­ing a lowly fash­ion in­tern slav­ishly toil­ing away in a win­dow­less fash­ion cup­board, it took her three years to con­vince fash­ion ed­i­tors that she was 

far left mo­hair trench, £ 2,970, michael kors col­lec­tion; shoes, £ 710, casadei; neck­lace, £ 24,300, bracelet, £ 6,050, and watch, £ 20,500, all cartier; ring, stylist’s own. left leop­ard- print coat, £ 3,910, phi­los­o­phy di lorenzo ser­afini; turtle­neck, about £ 228, sara battaglia; courts, £ 680, manolo blah­nik

right crys­tal dress, £ 12,855, and boots, £ 6,855, both saint lau­rent by an­thony vac­carello; choker, £ 510, ed­die borgo; ring, stylist’s own far right Roma dress, £ 1,890, emilia wick­stead;

shoes, £ 755, and ear­rings, £ 260, both miu miu; belt, £ 185, alessan­dra rich

Dress, £ 6,080, and ring, £ 300, both gucci; veil­ing, £ 10.50 per me­tre, vv rouleaux; neck­lace, £ 89,000, and ear­rings, £ 41,300, both bul­gari. op­po­site Gio­vanna at London, Paris and Mi­lan fash­ion weeks photographer’s as­sis­tants Michael Fur­longer, Tean Roberts, Matt Wash fash­ion as­sis­tants Car­lotta Tabarini, Charly Suggett, Char­lotte Wil­liams, Zane Page make- up Luca Cian­ci­olo us­ing MAC Cos­met­ics hair Olivier Schawalder man­i­curist Michelle Humphrey at LMC World­wide us­ing CHANEL Le Ver­nis in Bal­le­rina and La Creme Main chore­og­ra­pher Matthew Barksby at sourced­lon­don cast­ing and book­ing

edi­tor Holly Scott Lid­gett

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