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the story of an Oscar-winner

the story of an Oscar-winner

April 09
20:52 2018

Scene-stealing locations play the lead in any film by the Italian director Luca Guadagnino, whether it’s the rocky black lava coastline of Pantelleria or a modernist villa in Milan. In Call Me By Your Name, which won an Academy Award last month for best adapted screenplay, Guadagnino’s camera wanders the marble-floored halls and high-ceilinged bedrooms of a 17th-century estate in the Lombardy countryside, lingering over its heavily stylised interiors as it tells the awkward, tender story of the precocious teenage Elio and Oliver, a doctoral student who comes to stay one long, sun-baked summer.

To set the stage for Elio’s coming of age, Guadagnino turned to Dedar, a Milan-based design house, to provide the opulent furnishings, redolent of dwindling grandeur and refined tastes, against which his cosmopolitan protagonists could play out their passionate affair. Though he has insisted he doesn’t want to be known as the director “of lounging rich people”, Call Me By Your Name’s insular world of interminable, polyglottal family lunches and languid afternoons renders the Perlman family’s home of Villa Albergoni integral to the story. “The location is the protagonist as much as the characters,” according to Caterina Fabrizio, who owns Dedar with her brother Raffaele.

She says Guadagnino came to the company’s showroom to explain his vision of transforming the grand but rundown building into a home that has been lived in “intensely”. “The film is about beauty and decadence, the beauty of a house inhabited by one family for centuries,” she says. “It needed to look like it had seen a lot of stories,” adds Raffaele.

In his pursuit of an authentic past, Guadagnino and set designer Violante Visconti di Modrone pored over Dedar’s archives, looking for fabrics that corresponded to the period. “The film is set in the early 1980s but he wanted it to have this atmosphere of having been there for ever, suspended in time,” says Raffaele.

As a result, Dedar’s fabrics adorn almost every room in the house, from the vintage sofas in the living room to the upholstery on furniture, walls, curtains, tablecloths and four-poster bed. Guadagnino selected “faded, lived-in colours” and velvets, a Dedar mainstay — the company produces more than 400 different colours of velvet fabric, including one used for the Queen’s royal barge during the 2012 Jubilee. “Velvet is perennial, comfortable, it lasts for ever,” says Raffaele.

Dedar’s ‘Dalie Papaveri Tulipani’ fabric was used on the walls of the study in the film © Giulio Ghirardi

For the study of Elio’s father, an archaeology academic, the director chose a white jacquard wall covering with an abstract red-and-yellow floral pattern called Dalie Papaveri Tulipani, which recreates the effect of a reverse fabric. “It looks worn out and like it’s inside out,” says Raffaele.

In an upstairs bedroom, À Contre-Jour, a silk-cotton with a Chinese-inspired print featuring trees, a lake and fisherman, was printed in dark blue with a pink sunset. The effect was to evoke the past. Guadagnino has, says Raffaele, “an eye for every detail. It was incredible how precise he was.”

It’s not the first time Dedar has appeared on the silver screen. The company consulted on Guadagnino’s 2009 film I Am Love, the story of a family of first- and second-generation Milanese textile manufacturers, as well as on his forthcoming horror movie, Suspiria, set in 1970s Berlin. It was also used in another Oscar-winner, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013), supplying the fabric on protagonist Jep’s spectacular terrace.

The siblings took over Dedar from their parents. Growing up, the family home “was full of artists of all nationalities, an open world, rich of stimuli”, remembers Caterina. The house was “eclectic”, full of materials and antiques from fabric-sourcing trips. As children, they accompanied their parents on these journeys to India, Turkey and Thailand. Before backpacking became mainstream, they would visit out-of-the-way wholesale markets and villages, off the tourist trail, to buy carpets, which their mother collected. “I remember this spirit of adventure,” says Caterina.

These journeys gave them an early education in the trade. When they joined the business in the 1990s, Dedar expanded internationally, first to France, then south-east Asia. It now employs 190 people, 120 in Italy and the rest in its stores worldwide.

‘Abstract’, one of the Dedar fabrics used in the film

The search for inspiration still ranges far and wide. Collections can include handwoven embroidered fabrics from central Asia, ornate silks and graphic-printed jacquards. Central to Dedar’s work is “the idea of transmitting emotion”, says Caterina. They try not to adhere to the usual rules of decor, producing an extensive range of colours, especially greens, more often found in fashion than interiors.

Technical innovation is another focus; the company often creates completely new fabrics or yarns. One of Raffaele’s earliest memories at work was when his father wanted to make a silk far broader than the standard width of 1.3m, so as to make curtains without seams. He found a company that had built a loom to make ties from an unusually wide fabric of 3.3m, and had them produce a similar loom. “The manager said it was like using a Vespa to go to the moon, but we persevered.”

Its latest innovation is a world away from the set of a Guadagnino movie. At this year’s Milan Design Week, Dedar will present polyresin-and-vinyl fabric designed for the upholstery of a lobby in a luxury hotel in the city, to be highly functional, resistant to both fire and water, but still glamorous. “It needs to be able to survive people spilling drinks and dancing on it every night,” says Raffaele. The technology for the new fabric is a “mutation” of that used for suitcases by luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. “They are hard-wearing but beautiful.”

The ability to find new creative outlets has been crucial. The company often creates bespoke fabrics for hotels and restaurants, supplying the fabric for the new Annabel’s club in London’s Mayfair. For the Hotel Eden in Rome, Dedar created headboards inspired by classical Roman sculptures. A partnership to produce Hermès interiors is now on its seventh collection.

Raffaele and Caterina Fabrizio, owners of Dedar

The company is, however, deeply rooted in the surroundings of Milan, producing 85 per cent of its fabrics and wallpapers in Como, where the history of silk work goes back centuries. Raffaele says: “We are fortunate to be in an area where there is both a very antique tradition and a highly specialised creative hub. We are in the right place. It would be absurd to go elsewhere.”

Guadagnino may need to call on their creative contribution again. Since Call Me By Your Name won its Oscar, he has announced a sequel, with the young Elio transplanted to the early 1990s. Another delve into the Dedar archives may well be required.

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