A Day In The Life
Why Mr Nicolò Oddi Runs An Italian Luxury Knitwear Brand From Los Angeles
The Alanui co-founder invites us for a beachfront view of his home away from home
Mr Nicolò Oddi looks relaxed as he sits outside at the Back On The Beach Café in Santa Monica, walking distance from his girlfriend Ms Alessandra Ambrosio’s beach house.
The 39-year-old co-founder and CEO of Milan-based clothing brand Alanui has an out-of-office vibe. Sporting a-few-days-shy-of-roguish stubble, he wears a plain grey T-shirt, Champion basketball shorts, Nike x Off-White collaboration sneakers, Garrett Leight California Optical sunglasses and a Patek Philippe watch. Discreet typographic inner arm tattoos are on display. He assesses his medium-well-done cheeseburger and fries, breathes in the salty sea air, sips his San Pellegrino and breaks the spell. “I’m not a relaxed person,” he says, although by this, he adds, he means he is dynamic and hardworking.
This may be partly because, at 1.00pm in California, Mr Oddi has already done a full working day, Italian time. “I wake up at 6.00am, have a Brazilian coffee – it’s espresso when I’m in Milan, but Ali makes a Brazilian coffee I’m starting to like – and start work at 6.30am,” he says. His day begins with a flood of emails from late-afternoon Milan. The time lag can be anxiety-inducing, but also has its benefits, he says. “It’s go, go, go, but I can work with Italy for five hours, then I have all day to create something while they’re asleep, and at night I have two hours where another day is starting there. When I’m here I have three days in one. It’s amazing.” More hours to work is, for Mr Oddi, a gift.
Founded in 2016, Alanui itself began with a gift: a vintage oversized cardigan – “1960s or 1970s”, he wagers – that he discovered at the Rose Bowl Flea Market while he was on holiday in Los Angeles in 2015, and then gave to his sister, Ms Carlotta Oddi, fashion editor for Vogue Japan and now the creative director of their business. “I was working in the family business – water technologies – and during August, when Italy closes, I rented a house in West Hollywood for three weeks,” he says. Ms Oddi came to visit her older brother on her way to a road-trip with a friend in Hawaii, and wore the cardigan throughout her holiday. When she returned raving about the piece’s merits, with photo documentation of its versatility, a business idea was born. (The brand’s name means “large path” in Hawaiian.)
“We wanted to do something different, an experimental knitwear brand,” says Mr Oddi, adding that the Italian reputation for elite craftsmanship – à la Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana – was fundamental to their vision. He also credits their parents, who live in Monza, just outside Milan, for indoctrinating a work ethic and a love of style in their children by example. Their father is always clad in a sharply tailored suit (no tie – never a tie); their mother prefers classic French brands such as Chanel.
Deciding that the initial offerings should be unisex and seasonless, the siblings fell in love with the idea of a high-quality piece of unique clothing that could withstand and bear witness to the wearer’s lifetime of experiences. “You don’t buy a sweater for a season and then it’s done. You keep it for ever,” says Mr Oddi, adding that an Alanui cardigan takes 15 hours to knit and assemble, 1kg of cashmere and up to five hours to embellish.
After an initial offering of a Native American-inspired pattern in four different colours, the siblings launched collaborations with Colette and Mr Greg Lauren. In 2017, the holding company New Guards Group, whose portfolio includes Off-White and Heron Preston, acquired a stake in the business. And today Alanui turns out six complete collections each year for women and men, each with a nomadic, luxe-bohemian sensibility underpinned by a diverse set of influences (and very often with fringe), from Irish Aran to American Western.
Only a few days days before our interview, Mr Oddi was in Milan for the aurora borealis-themed presentation of the Alanui’s AW19 women’s collection at the House of Atellani, which overlooks La Vigna di Leonardo, Da Vinci’s Milanese residence when he was painting “The Last Supper”. It was a hectic trip and Mr Oddi apologises for keeping his sunglasses on; his eyes – the right a yellow-gold-green variation on his blue-green left – have yet to adjust to the sun’s glare.
The weekend has been an exercise in decompression: welcome-home pizza at Mr Travis Lett’s Venice Beach mainstay Gjelina (“I’m Italian, I like pizza”), a day trip to a friend’s ranch in Malibu, hiking to a waterfall and a birthday barbecue for Ms Ambrosio with 20 or so friends. Though he admits his twenties were, predictably, more party-fuelled, these days he is on a fairly strict 11.00pm bedtime. The next three weeks promise weekend beach volleyball, bike rides to Venice, daybreak pilgrimages to the flea market to hunt for “everything beautiful” and dinners at celebrity hangout Giorgio Baldi, as well as an out-of-town jaunt to Cabo in Mexico.
But today, though it may not look like it, what with the seafront table, the sand underfoot and the striped umbrella, it’s back to the grind. A grind that, after lunch, entails visiting stockists around town and hunting for inspiration at LA places, including vintage clothing store Mister Freedom and luxury vintage accessories outpost What Goes Around Comes Around. Absorbing all that his surroundings have to offer is both a pleasure and all in the name of research. “Our dream is to create a lifestyle, always with the legacy in mind,” he says. Later, an aperitivo with Ms Ambrosio is in order, perhaps a margarita on the roof of buzzy Westside lounge Élephante. And after that? “Basta,” he says. He has an early morning.