When Guido Conti Caponi goes to work each day at Loretta Caponi, where he is the company’s chief operating officer, he is fulfilling a grand family tradition. The fashion and lifestyle brand was founded by his grandmother in 1967, and he recalls being a young boy in 1992 when the Florence boutique first opened. “My mother used to bring me there, at least once a month to let me live the atmosphere, because it was very alive, chaotic, but incredible. Those memories are still so vivid to me,” he recalls. Conti Caponi grew to appreciate the level of skill and work that went into creating the line’s exquisite embroidery and joined the company in 2016.
He speaks with awe when he tells the story of his grandmother’s remarkable career. Caponi was only five years old when she began working as an artisan. “As the first child out of four, coming from a humble family, the family needed help. She was going to school in the mornings and at the workshops learning the techniques in the afternoons. She started working properly at the ripe age of nine. At 14, she delivered the first commissioned work,” he says. Caponi soon began to build a client base. After her marriage, she was welcomed into the social circle of her husband, Dino Caponi, a painter. They knew artists, writers, and poets.
Then, in 1966, Florence’s Arno River flooded. Caponi found a tiny shop that had been abandoned and began fixing it up. It became Loretta Caponi’s first shop, where she worked for years alongside her daughter, Lucia, Conti Caponi’s mother. “For the first 30 years in the workshop, my mother wasn’t allowed to speak in front of the artisans. They were old-school and quite strict, but she got to know all the clients, and she was capable of remembering every single detail of every order she took, which helped her understand the needs of the clients,” Conti Caponi shares.
After the brand was officially launched in 1967, the line quickly gained devotees. Conti Caponi singles out two women in particular he credits for introducing it around the world: Paola di Liegi, who is now the Queen of Belgium, and Jane Fonda. “Thanks to their word of mouth, circles of kings and queens and the movie industry were made aware of the brand. A lot of actors still come to Florence to create their own linens for a specific occasion, when they get married or when they renovate another house, but also to create their own nightwear,” he says.
Loretta Caponi’s embrace of tradition and its creation of seasonal linens makes Conti Caponi a bit of an authority on holiday entertaining. “The best advice my mother always gives to me is to create a very balanced tablescape and not use centerpieces that are too big—above all, not too tall, in order to keep people talking and ensure that they’re able to see each other from one side of the table to the other,” he says. “The room and the table have to be very warm and maximalist in a way; so, full of nice objects. No matter where they come from, they have to be fun, nice, and cozy in order to create a familiar and joyful vibe.”
The brand embraces Christmas in their offerings, with table linens, towels, and blankets embroidered with classic trees, bells, and Santas. Next year, they’ll design a Christmas ready-to-wear capsule. “Our ready-to-wear line is more about summer holidays, so we wanted to create also something for the winter holidays, too,” Conti Caponi says.
He loves the approach that Italians take towards entertaining for the holidays. “From porcelains to objects, there is a lot of heritage in general, which helps to mix and match things, old and new. It helps to create a very elegant and fun tablescape.”
Christmas is an important time for the Caponi family, and for years, they celebrated with a large Christmas lunch at their country home and a party in Florence for New Year’s Eve. After Caponi, who was Conti Caponi’s best friend, passed away in 2015, he decided to focus on his family and make use of their many talents. “Since I love cooking, I want to prepare Christmas dinner on the 24th and the Christmas snack on the 25th for my entire family, instead of running to buy last-minute presents,” he says. Each year, he visits the local markets, where he buys ingredients to prepare his dishes.
On Christmas evening, Conti Caponi throws what he calls a “leftover dinner.” Each of his friends brings what’s left from their family meals to share. “My mother always loved it. She used to sit among us, talking and sharing thoughts and experiences of the past year,” Conti Caponi says. “It’s nice to have that moment where we can all gather together and say, ‘What happened last year?’”
Everything that the Loretta Caponi company does for Christmas is inextricably tied to the founder’s family. “For me, it’s not a brand, it’s family,” Conti Caponi says. “I remember the grand opening of our boutique in Florence, in 1992. I was a kid, but I remember opening the door and basically running through legs toward my mother just to say ‘ciao, hello.’”
Adrienne Gaffney is a features editor at ELLE and previously worked at WSJ Magazine and Vanity Fair.