In a country steeped in design history, it’s not surprising to find a depth of familial connections—craftsmanship and artistic vision are passed down from one generation to the next. Come spring, a new name joins the tradition of Italian fashion dynasties: Castiglioni.
The name might not roll off the tongue quite as easily as Prada or Missoni, but for the initiated it represents one thing: Marni. The brainchild of Consuelo Castiglioni, Marni cornered the women’s market for 22 years with smart design, bold patterns, and impossibly chic silhouettes. Together with her husband, Gianni, and children, Carolina and Giovanni, Consuelo built an empire rivaling the storied Italian houses. Then, in 2016, she stepped down, and the family took a hiatus.
It’s only fitting that the return of the Castiglioni name to fashion’s center stage is also a family affair. With her father as CEO and brother in the role of operations director, Carolina Castiglioni takes the helm of the new label, Plan C. Having more than paid her dues, Consuelo is sitting this one out.
Plan C, a moniker that plays on Carolina’s first name as well as the family name, has created buzz even before hitting stores for the way it evolves the bright colors and vibrant prints that were hallmarks of the Marni aesthetic. The look is the perfect pairing of new and nostalgic—a juxtaposition that encapsulates the allure of both the brand and the woman behind it. Even Plan C’s modern showroom on central Via Visconti di Modrone in Milan blends the future with the past: The mid-century space in one of the city’s grand palazzi was once the home of Carolina’s great-grandmother’s fur atelier. It was also where Marni, launched in 1994 as a complementary offering to the house’s refined coats, got its start.
Being raised in the business has made certain aspects of launching a new brand easier. “I have always existed in an environment of creative people who love quality,” says Carolina, who received formal training at the renowned Istituto Marangoni in Milan and served as Marni’s special projects director. “Growing up this way, I learned it’s best to design what I like and what feels good, and to be as free as possible in terms of creativity, color combinations, and finding new shapes.”
But in other ways, coming out from the long shadow of one of Italy’s most celebrated designers of the modern era is a unique challenge. Consuelo’s influence on Carolina’s aesthetic is evident in their shared appreciation for color, sophistication, and pattern. “My mother and I have many things in common,” she acknowledges. “We even buy the same clothes for the same occasions sometimes! But we are also two different people of different ages. When I design, I am creating the clothes I want to wear. I design for my life and my taste.”
Carolina’s unique sense of proportion and scale defines Plan C as a forward-thinking label for the next generation. Playful, sophisticated, and experimental, the look is more about a personality than it is a particular aesthetic. “I want to design for creative women who are independent thinkers, not for people following trends,” she says. “I like mixing masculine and feminine: an oversized shape paired with a belted waist that brings it back to a feminine silhouette.”
As she forges ahead with her unique perspective, Carolina surrounds herself with the family that has been such an integral part of not only her life but her work. She looks to her brother and father for feedback and chose a cousin as her lookbook model. In the distance, the next generation of Castiglioni creativity awaits: Stick-figure sketches by Carolina’s young daughter Margherita adorn bags and shirts in the collection, adding lightness to their bold, sculptural construction. “I want to bring my life into my designs,” she explains. “These clothes are as much about who I am as they are about what I like to wear.”