Like a geological soil sample that layers one history on top of another, opened its doors yesterday in the South Street Seaport, breathing commerce back into a former fish-market building. Already there were schools of people swimming about—shoppers, photographers, editors—but Carla Sozzani radiated an unlikely serenity, floating from the main floor to a quiet booth inside the restaurant. “I have always been very calm,” the 71-year-old Italian said with a two-syllable lilt. It’s a trait that has served her well, first as a fashion editor and later at the helm of her pioneering concept shop, which she opened at the namesake address in Milan in 1991. “But I have lots of energy! I can work 20 hours, no problem,” she added with a laugh. Spoken like a true New Yorker.
Still, in a city where pedestrians walk with phones in hand as if self-directed by remote control, Sozzani hopes that her newest location will be a kind of down-tempo oasis. “When we started 10 Corso Como, it was because there was no Internet, there was no communication,” she recalled. In that void, she wove together strands of her disparate interests: Helmut Newton photographs, designs by friends Azzedine Alaïa and Rei Kawakubo, Caudalie skin care long before it found international distribution. And chairs! Rest for the weary. “Now, 28 years later, it’s even more valuable to have a place where people can come and take their time”—off-line and in-person. “It’s an amazing, utilitarian tool,” she granted, gesturing to her phone, but it’s not about to take over her life. “My Instagram disappeared from my phone! I don’t know what I did, but I’m not worried. My daughter laughed at me: ‘Mama.’ ”
Further evidence of Sozzani’s uncomplicated sensibility can be seen in her elegant, unadorned face and corn silk–color hair, tied back with a thin velvet ribbon. “You know, I never wore makeup in my whole life,” she said, remembering childhood visits to museums with her sister, Franca—the legendary Italian Vogue editor who died in December 2016—where they surveyed the Renaissance portraits and relics from Pompeii. “When you look at the women, they have no makeup or high heels, and they conquered the world,” said Sozzani. “The sense that they could be beautiful, not beautiful—it always made me more confident in myself, rather than trying to do something different.” Instead, the emphasis is on careful cleansing, morning and night, using a formula by the French facialist Joëlle Ciocco, on sale nearby. “And I’m mad about this cream, Augustinus Bader,” she said, eyes glittering. “I’ve been using it now for almost a year, and I think it’s very good.”