Let’s face it, there’s no better place to unwind and recharge in Italy than Como, the hotspot where George Clooney, Donatella Versace and Madonna have already pegged their luxe tents. Surrounded by green hills, quiet waters and silence, Como, in Northern Italy, is also the perfect solution to aesthetic-loving vacationers, like designer Amalie Brandi Mikkelsen, who are looking for a nature resplendent hideout with a good view.
As work made a return to the new pseudo-normality, some went back to the daily grind while others started a whole new chapter. For Amalie, starting her label during the pandemic may not have been part of the overarching theme in her life, but it was a long time coming plan. Still fresh into the business, she has made headway with a burgeoning client base and has gained the confidence of industry insiders for her much-loved design sensibilities and ethical practices backed by her business –and life– partner, Karandeep.
“Being a designer is just one part of my job description. As I recently started my brand, my partner and I have every job in our company, and we try to manage it in the best way possible, daily. It surely gets hectic at times, but it’s also exciting,” she says. Amalie has had many roles to juggle ever since she established her label that is currently headquartered in New Delhi, India. Trying to catch a break amidst the speedy rise of her business, Amalie found Como the ideal summer spot for some time away from the lockdowns and her work. For her, it is a little slice of heaven to be able to rejuvenate at her parent’s estate home, whose grand gates overlook the lake. We chatted with her about her great escape and here’s what she had to say...
What are the three words that describe Como best?
Serene, timeless and picturesque!
Vacationers in 2021 have hit many roadblocks, so it seems futile to talk about a travel bucket list when there are not many who have managed to make their yearly trips. Instead, most of us are living vicariously through sources like throwback posts on Instagram or books that paint vivid pictures of the outdoors. “Quarantine truly changed everyone’s routines, my personal life became more oriented around exercising, cooking and work,” adds Amalie.
Designers, however eccentric or avant-garde they might be, also need a good old holiday to get back their mojo, so Amalie treats her vacations like an inspiration board for creativity. Currently based in India, hopping from city to city for shoots, she talks about her changing ideas on what constitutes a holiday. “Before the pandemic, I was quite a fan of doing weekend trips to other cities, but now I will say I am more drawn to quiet spots– somewhere that has beautiful nature, since I find myself indoors a lot (in the office).”
“I like to go to the town of Varenna as well-- it’s a stunning little town a bit further down from the lake than the more renowned town of Bellagio.”
If there’s one travel tip you’d give for Como, what would it be?
Go to Como and just relax, don’t plan a very hectic schedule. Instead, take time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the slow-paced, old-school vibe. Being outdoors is an absolute must, whether it’s going sailing or going for a beautiful trail walk–there are many beautiful churches as well, and of course, enjoy some good Italian food!
Amalie’s relationship with Como is different compared to the quintessential tourist exploring the Lombardy-situated region. “To be honest, my parents have lived in Como for many years now, so they are the main reason that I visit it so often, and I must admit I have fallen in love with the lake,” she reveals. Apart from basking in the picturesque views, Amalie finds it more invigorating to be a part of the local happenings, one stellar example being the annual LacMus Classical music festival that she attended. The festival features a series of music concerts held across a few days as a way to celebrate the old-world charm of classical music that unifies connoisseurs of the arts and artists under one sky.
Almost a local, Amalie ends up eating most often at Al Veluu– a restaurant owned by a close family friend. “It’s my go-to eatery as it offers a very wholesome cuisine and most of their produce is grown in their garden itself. Not to forget, they also have an amazing view over the lake!”
But Como is a destination best explored for its hidden charms, rather than just taking in the scenic attributes. If you’re like Amalie, who clearly prefers being active over lazing around, consider being a tad adventurous and take a swim in the sparkling lake, or hop on a boat. “It’s always a must to go sailing and take a dip in the lake, it’s so refreshing as it is fresh water and is a little cooler than you’d expect,” she suggests. “I like to go to the town of Varenna as well-- it’s a stunning little town a bit further down from the lake than the more renowned town of Bellagio.”
Share a fond memory from Como that’s always etched in your mind.
My partner in business and life, Karandeep, had our engagement party by the lake, which was truly a magical weekend surrounded by friends and family. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Amalie suggests carrying a travel wardrobe consisting of breathy cottons for a summer trip down to Northern Italy. “As I now have my own brand, I wear mostly Malie, or pieces I have gotten made as I love buying fabrics locally in India and getting them made into my own designs,” she says.
“Before the pandemic, I was quite a fan of doing weekend trips to other cities, but now I will say I am more drawn to quiet spots– somewhere that has beautiful nature, since I find myself indoors a lot (in the office).”
What are the top five pieces in your vacation wardrobe that you loved wearing?
My favourite dress for this Summer was the Molé dress, it’s made of handwoven Ikat from organic cotton and is perfect for lunches or casual dinners. When we went sailing on the boat, I enjoyed wearing the La Carlia Facile dress, it’s a bandeau dress and is so airy and light to wear. Other items I loved wearing were the Malie Santé dress in emerald green silk, the Malie Aya top paired with simple white jeans or shorts, and the Hills kaftan in hand printed sustainable cotton for relaxed evenings in the garden. I always match it with the La Carlia Furlane velvet shoes-- they somehow seem to match everything.