Take A Bow
Stylist Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert’s chic Swedish home is filled with quirky treasures, much like her wardrobe. By Lucy Halfhead. Photographed by Harry Crowder.
“Every time I leave the house is a chance to dress up,” says the Italian stylist and fashion editor Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, reclining on a white Charlotte Perriand daybed in her elegant Stockholm apartment. “Whether it’s for a business meeting or just going to the supermarket, I try to be the best version of myself.”
So it’s no surprise that for her three-day wedding in Capri in 2016 to Swedish real-estate developer Oscar Engelbert, the bride wore a dazzling array of outfits, from an Alexander McQueen gown with a huge, ruffled organza train to a metallic Prada dress for the disco-themed after-party—held on a huge cargo ship in the middle of the Mediterranean to get around the island’s strict noise curfew.
Giovanna’s fantasy fashion life began on the cobbled streets of Milan, where she was born and brought up during the ’80s by parents who were both artists. “As a child I remember being fascinated by the clothes in the shop windows and waiting excitedly outside the Società del Giardino to watch the celebrities arriving for the Versace show,” she says. “But my family wasn’t thrilled about it. Today, art and fashion are best friends, but back then, art in Milan was an elite world and fashion was not seen as very intellectual.”
She initially studied at the revered Brera Fine Arts Academy, where her mother teaches sculpture, but dropped out at 17 when she started modelling for Dolce & Gabbana. “Back then, the fashion houses were more human-sized ... You went in, and you did research, and became like a muse.” It was at this point that she met stylist Charlotte Stockdale who encouraged her to pursue a career in creative direction and editing. Over the years Giovanna has worked with photographers including Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier, as well as a host of top models. One of her favourite memories is of Gisele Bündchen’s first season. “She walked into the room, and my
jaw dropped. It was right after the ’90s waif look, and then all of a sudden, Gisele arrived full of energy, healthy and cool—a woman to aspire to.”
An early Instagram adopter—her following now numbers 890k—Giovanna (@bat_gio) used the platform to establish herself as a street-style sensation, often wearing multiple outfits a day to the shows in London, Paris, Milan, and New York. Hailed for her ability to combine maximalist accessories and wild prints with sleek tailoring and classic silhouettes, she always appears sophisticated but without taking herself too seriously. Her greatest hits include an embroidered skirt and bralette, both by Prada, teamed with a yellow feathered jacket, and a pink sparkly Valentino dress. She takes inspiration from actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Tilda Swinton—women, she says, who are not afraid to be bold and inventive with their style. “I also believe that you should be comfortable with what you’re wearing, which doesn’t mean you have to wear sweatpants, it means you wear what you feel is right for your body.”
Day-to-day, her favourite labels are Celine, with touches of Balenciaga, Prada, Miu Miu, Jimmy Choo heels, and an abundance of Alaïa. In fact, her most cherished item is a vintage Alaïa leopard-print dress, which she paired with a yellow Fendi Peekaboo mini leather bag at Paris Fashion Week in 2013. “I wanted that dress so badly, ever since I saw those iconic pictures of the ’90s supermodels wearing it,” she says, “Finally I found it up for sale. It was more than I would have liked to spend, but it was totally worth it.”
Giovanna’s extensive wardrobe is divided between her homes in New York, the English countryside, and the Swedish capital where we have met for the BAZAAR shoot. “I have an online photographic archive, so I can keep track of where everything is.” The Stockholm apartment occupies part of an 1800s townhouse on Djurgården island that has been owned by her husband’s family for centuries. Furnished with classic vintage pieces including Jean Royère wall lights, a Pierre Chapo coffee table, and a Vladimir Kagan sofa, the décor is a reflection of Oscar’s
love of mid-century furniture. “I really admire the refined aesthetics of this country,” Giovanna says. “Everything in Sweden is really elegant and low-key.”
All the same, you can spot her more flamboyant influence: the sun room is swathed with colourful Rubelli velvet and there is an impressive collection of art on the walls, including a George Condo painting in the living room and a yellow Rosemarie Trockel wool tapestry that hangs on the dining room wall.
“We complement each other pretty well, my husband and I: his passion for interiors is like my passion for fashion. He is really, really obsessed with it.” Other beautiful pieces include a George Nakashima sideboard, a Jean Prouvé daybed, and Hans Wegner chairs in the bathroom. A vintage Lars Holmström for Arvika chandelier hangs above the dining room’s teak table and armchairs, designed by Pierre Jeanneret as part of the Chandigarh project in India.
Recently, Giovanna added “author” to her CV, after a chance encounter with the president of Rizzoli Publications sparked an idea for a coffee-table book documenting her dressing-up adventures. Gio_Graphy: Fun In The Wild World Of Fashion offers quirky tips on how to pick your perfect shade of red, or go to the loo in a ball gown, and reflects her mischievous humour. “Fashion is a visual message you give out to the world,” Giovanna concludes. “It’s important for your own spirit. If you feel down and you dress down, it’s not going to go very well. Or you can wear something that will cheer you up—a ring, a pearl earring, or a funky pair of shoes—and it’s a good antidote, a mood booster. Clothes are meant to be fun.”
Wool dress, Khaite. Velvet shoes, Tabitha Simmons.
Vintage Lars Holmström for Arvika chandelier
Giovanna and Oscar bonded over books when they first met
Giovanna and Oscar’s wedding cushion in the bedroom
Giovanna at the marina at the end of her garden Sateen dress, Emilia Wickstead. Satin shoes, Manolo Blahnik. A Christian-Pontus Andersson sculpture hangs above the staircase
A dazzling art piece
Giovanna barbie doll
Wool dress, Sara Battaglia. Tweed shoes, Tabitha Simmons. Top, F.R.S For Restless Sleepers A headpiece in Giovanna’s walk-in wardrobe Shoes, Manolo Blahnik What better way to make a statement? Teak table and chairs in the dining room Gio_Graphy: Fun In The Wild World Of Fashion by Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert (Rizzoli) Jewellery in Giovanna’s wardrobe