Three international talents who succeeded in Milan – WWD


Considered by many to be a very conservative city, Milan is becoming increasingly international thanks to the creativity, diverse backgrounds and business acumen of people from all over the world who have found a home under the Duomo Cathedral. From gastronomy to floral design to architecture, here are the stories of three personalities who have made their names in Milan.


Claudio liu
Brambilla Serrani / Courtesy of Iyo Aalto.

When Claudio Liu opened his first restaurant, Iyo, in 2007, he was only 23 years old.

For those familiar with Milan’s culinary scene, Iyo offers the best Japanese cuisine in the city, a supremacy that gained official cachet in 2014 when the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star.

“It was such a surprise, we certainly weren’t looking for this achievement. It took a long time to digest it, ”said Liu, now 38. Born in China to Chinese parents, he grew up near Reggio Emilia and in 2003 moved with his family to Milan, where his parents ran an Italian restaurant. After his studies, he worked in a restaurant with his family, including his sister Giulia, but after a few years he felt the need to go solo.

“My father and I have a different take on the food business. So I decided with my wife to open my own thing, ”Liu said, telling Iyo’s story. “I opted for Japanese cuisine because I felt it very close to what I liked and my idea of ​​excellence in the research of products and ingredients.

Opened in a small place and with a very accessible format, Iyo has grown over the years and raised its offer, also thanks to the support of Japanese chef Uro Ichikawa – although Liu also felt some suspicion of his plans.

“Of course, we had to earn the trust of customers and suppliers, but I have to say that it has never been so difficult to find a place for myself in Italy. Of course, being surrounded by a big community has helped, but I think Milan is also more international than other places and people are quite open, ”he explained.

While in lockdown, Liu served customers through Aji, a take-out and delivery service featuring high-end oriental fare, delivered in fancy, eco-friendly packaging by restaurant couriers on electric scooters.

“We had so many requests during the lockdown that I had to help with deliveries,” said Liu, who is investing in a fancy restaurant in Milan’s upscale Porta Nuova district.

Inside the Iyo Aalto restaurant.

Inside the Iyo Aalto restaurant.
Courtesy of Iyo Aalto.

Originally opened last November as Iyo Aalto, after the lockdown Liu renamed it and renamed it Aalto Part of Iyo. “The problem with the first name is that people came here expecting the same menu as Iyo, but this restaurant has a very different concept,” he said.

Directed in collaboration with chef Takeshi Iwai, Aalto Part of Iyo offers cuisine mixing different references; of course, Italian and Japanese, but also other cultures. The menu includes a dish of beef, eggplant and sakura flowers, as well as chicken dumplings with curry.

Liu, who employs around 65 people, receives many requests from second-generation Italians to work for him or seek his advice.

“They are writing to me asking for career suggestions or applying for internships at our restaurants,” Liu said. “What I always suggest to them is to leave their comfort zone and seek their own path and independence beyond the protection of the original family.” In his case, it certainly worked well. – Alessandra Turra


Sachiko Ito.

Sachiko Ito
Courtesy of Sachiko Ito.

With her witty, smiling eyes peeking out from beneath the embroidered towel that she wraps around her head like a turban, Sachiko Ito, who is often seen cycling around Milan, is a woman unlike any other. others. One that certainly does not go unnoticed.

Ito is originally from Ichinomiya-shi, a town in Aichi Prefecture in Japan, and traveled all over his homeland before settling first in Germany and then Italy in 2007.

As an acclaimed and sought-after floral designer, she mastered the art of composition in Japan after obtaining a degree in landscaping from Miyazaki University. In Kyoto, Ito improved his skills by working for a gardening company.

But she noted that the social and professional hierarchy in her native country was sometimes so heavy that she felt it stifled her creativity, while in Europe she found more openness “to experiment and get out of things. beaten track “.

His career really blossomed in Italy.

“When I arrived here, I quickly realized that it was easier for me to start a freelance career than to be employed by someone else, as I hardly spoke Italian at the era, “she said.

Despite the first obstacles, she said that Milan had warmly welcomed her and that she was clearly in love with the city, which Ito described as “a chic and livable enclave compared to other international metropolises, but it is multicultural and offers, compared to other regions of the country, a large number of unsuspected opportunities.

Among her essential clients, brands like No. 21, Jil Sander, La Double J, Colville and design guru Rossana Orlandi, all fascinated by her chic creations mixing flowers and vegetables or other decorative objects that she creates instinctively.

“I was kind of recognized in town by word of mouth and although I’m not really a fashion-savvy person, I definitely see fashion as the area that has really given me a lot of opportunity,” he said. Ito said.

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A flower arrangement by Sachiko Ito.
Courtesy of Sachiko Ito.

She believes in the magic of coincidences and has emphasized how partnering with fashion companies is just a return to her roots. Her maternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather ran textile companies in Japan and she believes her story paved the way for her business partnerships.

“As I develop my compositions, there is always an exchange with my clients, whether they are individuals or companies, and I try to take their desires and needs seriously” , she specifies.

A country with a long floral tradition, Ito said her Japanese roots are apparent in her designs, although she believes she has mastered a very European aesthetic that reminds her of her youth when she gazed at her maternal family’s European-style garden. .

“I feel like I’m half European,” she said bluntly. – Martino Carrera


Rudy Faissal

Rudy Faissal
Lucas Possiede / Courtesy of Rudy Faissal

“Diversity is always an opportunity,” said Rudy Faissal, a Lebanese architect who has found a second home in Milan for nearly two decades.

“Milan has everything to be the new New York of the 90s or the Berlin of August. The only things missing are more opportunities for young creatives, because large conservative structures are always afraid to risk investing in new talent. It can be even more international and intercultural, with better recognition and a mix of different cultures that would make it competitive with the most prominent cities in the world, ”he added, sharing his wishes for the future of Milan. .

Over the years, the architect has seen the city explode and become “a more pleasant, lively and optimistic destination, attracting more and more talent from all over the world”, but he still sees a lot of room for improvement.

“I would widen sidewalks and replace parking spaces with green spaces, increasing public transport and cycle paths. We must start to get used to the idea of ​​living in urban spaces without cars and local authorities must help and do their part in creating alternative solutions for transport. Milan is lucky because the size of its city center is relatively contained, ”noted the architect.

Born in Beirut 39 years ago, Faissal left his hometown after high school to graduate from IUAV University in Venice and moved to Milan to launch his career.

His process of integration into the country was not without effort, as Faissal remembered some difficulties at the start of his journey in Italian caused by the difference in language. Still, Beirut didn’t seem so far from the pinnacles of the Duomo.

“The similar Mediterranean culture shared by Italy and Lebanon has helped a lot. And the Italian “Dolce Vita” helped to make everything simpler, ”he recalls. “From a professional point of view, since it was the first place I started to work, there weren’t a lot of problems: it was the only way of working that I knew.

After cutting his teeth at the Dordoni Architetti studio for two years, Faissal was contacted by the company Giorgio Armani for a freelance collaboration that lasted 12 years. During this time he worked on projects ranging from designing shops and cafes for the group’s labels as well as some of Armani’s private residences.

When this collaboration ended in January, Faissal decided to focus all his energies on his own studio, called Lit Studio and created last year with architect Riccardo Boccia.

A project organized by Faissal.

A project organized by Faissal.
Courtesy of Rudy Faissal

Investing in a start-up in a competitive design market in Milan was not an easy task, as Faissal identified some initial efforts to gain the trust of clients. “But I think it is a problem shared in all parts of the world, especially within this industry,” he noted, keeping an optimistic approach regarding the impact of the pandemic on his business.

“At this historic moment, the work has slowed down a lot, but we are confident that Milan will regain the traction they had before,” he said. Fashion will remain key despite a tumultuous time in physical retail, as the architect recently worked with Giambattista Valli on the development of some of the brand’s stores around the world. “Unfortunately, today’s luxury business is not having a good period and many projects have inevitably been postponed. For this reason, we also focus a lot on our private clients.

In particular, the studio is engaged in the restoration of two apartments in Milan, a boutique hotel in Paraggi – a 20-minute drive from Portofino – and a restaurant on the Greek island of Zante. In addition, Lit Studio was selected to organize the design of the Lebanese pavilion for the upcoming exhibition in Dubai, which Faissal defined as the most significant assignment he has had.

“I will represent my home country, which is currently going through the most difficult period in its history. This project is like the smallest contribution that I can make as an architect and that is why it is particularly close to me: it is a source of great pride, also for my parents ”, he concluded. . – Sandra Salbian


Rosalie M. Dehner