Quick Q&A with an Italian trendsetter and style icon

What makes a fashionable life? It’s may be as much about what we do and buy as much as the details we notice and the principles we live by. But it doesn’t hurt to have stylish predecessors who passed on that appreciation and expertise too. To our friend Vanessa Zoppas, it’s all of those things. The half Dutch, half Italian mother of three and member of the San Benedetto (mineral water) family recently shared with us some of her background, the daily style philosophies she lives by, and some predictions for style in the new year.

Vanessa Zoppas floral dresses style
Vanessa Zoppas floral dresses style, including Alexander McQueen, Self Portrait, and Dolce & Gabbana.

Q: How did you start to love fashion and style? Was there a moment, a particular item, or style icon that sparked your appreciation for living stylishly?

A: La passione per la moda mi è sicuramente stata tramandata dalla mia mamma ma soprattutto Dalle mie nonne . Entrambe Amanti della grande sartorialita’, la mia nonna materna olandese, amante dei sarti Francesi, saint laurent, dior. Sempre perfetta sempre impeccabile. Mi diceva sempre che una donna non può mai farsi trovare impreparata, mi insegnava che anche in casa le donne dovevano avere la piega fatta e le scarpe addosso per essere pronte a visite improvvise e inaspettate! La Mia nonna materna invece appassionata di Capucci, Valentino e le sorelle fontana. Aveva un tailleur diverso per ogni giorno del mese! di tutti i colori, fatti e disegnati apposta per lei. Appassionata di gioielli e amante dell arte mi ha trasmesso il culto per l estetica e per la qualità.

A: A passion for fashion has certainly been handed down to me by my mother but above all by my grandmothers, who were both lovers of great tailoring. My Dutch maternal grandmother was a lover of French tailors…Saint Laurent and Dior. Always perfect, always impeccable. 

She always told me that a woman can never be found unprepared, she taught me that even at home women had to have their hair folded and their shoes on to be ready for unexpected visitors or impromptu plans! 

My paternal grandmother instead was passionate about Capucci, Valentino, and Sorelle Fontana. She had a different suit for every day of the month, of all colors, made and designed specifically for her. She was also passionate about jewelry and a lover of art, both things she passed on to me—the cultish appreciation of aesthetics and quality.

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A sunshine look by Vanessa Zoppas
A sunshine look by Vanessa Zoppas: Miu Miu embroidered top, Stella McCartney trousers, Etro clutch, and Marni gold leaf earrings.

Q: What inspires you to explore new aesthetics and new looks? What’s your personal style philosophy?

A: Seguo la moda con un tocco personale, mi piace interpretare la tendenze cercando di mantenere una certa sobrietà. Mi piacciono i dettagli, un gioiello, una spilla, un cerchietto colorato, un fiocco nei capelli.. non amo le scritte, non amo la riconoscibilità del brand, mi piace mischiare, un jeans di Zara con un cappotto di Etro. Una borsa di coccodrillo con un paio di nike colorate.

A: I follow fashion with a personal touch. I like to interpret trends while trying to maintain a certain sobriety, vs. diving headfirst into each one.

I like details…a jewel, a brooch, a colored headband, a bow in my hair. I don’t like graphics or writing on a garment. I don’t like the brand to be recognizable. I like to mix Zara jeans with an Etro coat or a crocodile handbag with a pair of colorful Nike sneakers.

Q: You’ve collaborated with many Italian fashion brands and lines. What is so special about the made in Italy label? What makes Italian fashion and style so unique?

A: Italians just do it better! Don’t they?!

An evening ensemble
An evening ensemble: Valentino white dress, Saint Laurent mesh earrings and black tote.

Q: I understand you have an eye for quality. What makes something high quality? How can you tell?

A: Il design, la scelta dei materiali, le rifiniture, una cucitura…l equilibrio tra tradizione della manifattura e modernità di design. Sono i piccoli dettagli che fanno un enorme differenza. La semplicità a mio avviso spesso e’ il segreto di un oggetto che funziona.

A: The design, the choice of materials, the finishing, a seam. The balance between tradition of manufacture and modernity of design. It’s the small details that make a huge difference. In my opinion, simplicity is often the secret of an object that works.

Q: If you had to wear only a single “uniform” for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Skinny jeans, Saint Laurent ankle boots, a cashmere sweater, an oversized coat, and a Celine handbag.

Vanessa Zoppas forever look
Vanessa Zoppas forever look: Saint Laurent boots, Celine bag, Max Mara tie-waist coat, Isabel Marant Étoile cashmere sweater, and J. Brand skinny denim jeans.

Q: Is there something you can’t live without? A particularly versatile or convenient piece? What makes it timeless?

A: Una collana serpente di bulgari, regalo dei miei 18 anni, il primo regalo che fece mio padre a mia madre. Non l ho mai tolta in 20 anni.

A: A snake necklace from Bulgari, a gift of my 18th birthday and the first gift my father ever gave to my mother. I’ve never taken it off in 20 years!

Q: What’s your favorite place to shop in (your home base) Florence?

A: Amo la biancheria intima e l’abbigliamento da camera di Loretta Capponi, un brand storico Fiorentino di altissima manifattura.

A: I love the underwear and lingerie of Loretta Capponi, a historic Florentine brand of the highest quality.

A timeless evening look
A timeless evening look: Etro and Jil Sander black dresses.

Q: What’s one item you will always splurge on and one item you will never splurge on?

A: Per un gioiello, per un abito fatto su misura, un opera d’arte o un bel mobile spenderei qualsiasi cifra.. per il pret a porter invece spendo meno volentieri nel senso che oggi giorno puoi vestire Zara o Coss e essere di tendenza senza dover spendere grandi cifre.

A: For an item of jewelry, a tailor-made suit, a work of art, or a beautiful piece of furniture, I would spend any amount. For everyday clothing instead I spend less willingly in the sense that today you can dress Zara or COS and be trendy without having to spend big amounts.

Q: What’s your trend prediction for 2020? Which styles are fading and which are beginning to gain traction?

A: Probabilmente dopo un anno di accessori, anni 80, fiocchi, vite alte torneremo agli anni 90. Pantaloni a vita bassa, cappotti maschili, abiti da sport, leggings sportivi, prevedo un ritorno del basico, strutture, tagli a vivo. Armani, jil sander kalvin Klein quel tipo di mood penso stia tornando!

A: Probably after a year of accessories, 80s influences, bows, and high-waisted looks, we’ll return to the 90s: low-waisted trousers, masculine coats, sports dresses, sports leggings. I foresee a return of the basic, structures, cuts: Giorgio Armani, Jil Sander, Calvin Klein…that kind of mood I think is coming back!

Q: What’s your style-related New Year’s resolution for 2020?

A: I’m going into 2020 with the following mood: long white skirt, short top, wet hair, and bare feet!

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Many thanks to Vanessa Zoppas for taking the time to speak with us. She’s a style icon —leading an effortlessly elegant, stylish life while raising three children, leading charity fundraising efforts, and keeping an eye on the fashion world.

Discover more italist Q&As: Alessandro Squarzi, Sabina Jacobs, and Stacie from the Luxe Hunt blog.

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About the Author

Alex English is the Head of Content Marketing at italist.com, building on a lifelong passion for fashion and luxury. After publishing a lifestyle blog for nearly ten years and obtaining an MBA in Milan at SDA Bocconi, one of Europe’s top business schools, he joined the italist team in 2019. His work since then has focused on upper-funnel messaging, brand storytelling, establishing italist as a thought leader in the space, and enriching the customer experience on the platform. Find him on LinkedIn.