Artist in Residence

Fifth Chukker

Alter Ego Project Group is the Milan-based luxury brand making waves on the shores of Nigeria. We travelled inland to meet CEO and Founder Julia D Lantieri.

Fifth Chukker

What’s the secret behind some of the world’s most beautiful homes? Who’s responsible for styling the eye-catching yachts of Capri and Antibes? And just how do you give your Falcon 8X the finishing touches to set it apart from most other jets? We caught up with Julia D Lantieri, Founder and CEO of Italy’s Alter Ego Project Group, to find out.

Fifth Chukker: We’ve known the Alter Ego brand for quite a few years now, but you really caught our attention in 2016 when you announced you were opening a Private Atelier here in Nigeria. How did one of Italy’s top luxury design houses decide on laying down roots in Abuja?
Julia D Lantieri:
“In the past, it was enough for a brand to specialize in one thing, and perhaps focus on a small local audience. But now the whole world feels more like one village. There are fabulous taste-makers right across the African continent — but as a country, Nigeria really seems in the lead. People were flying to our Atelier in Milan, and asking how to bring the Alter Ego approach to their homes. We were coming here more and more, spending time with some inspirational customers. Eventually we just thought ‘you know what, we should be here full time!’ So we looked for a location, and Abuja seemed like the perfect fit.”

Fifth Chukker: For readers who may not know Alter Ego yet, how would you describe what you do?
Julia D Lantieri:
“At its simplest, we’re here to help you live beautifully. Everyone’s life is so precious, and no two

individuals are exactly the same. So wouldn’t it be nice if we could express that individuality through the objects that surround us? It could be your home, or a yacht, or even a jet plane. But whatever it is, you want to make it your own. Through our longstanding family links to the best Italian manufacturers and craftsmanship, we can bring that special sense of style and flair to just about anything.”

Fifth Chukker: We’ve seen some of your yacht and aircraft interiors, and they’re absolutely stunning — every bit as beautiful as the work you do around homes. How would you describe your aesthetic?
Julia D Lantieri:
“Thank you — although I certainly can’t take all the credit. People know me as the public face of Alter Ego, and it’s true the first concept was mine. But there’s a big team behind the scenes of hugely talented professionals. When I see some of the designs our architects are creating today, I’m really speechless. They’re the very best working in the business, and we’re lucky enough to be able to realise projects on a spectacular scale. The people who source our land, our décor — everyone has the same attention to detail. We are meticulous over every small facet, and make sure all the furnishings, all the objets d’art, everything you or a guest could see, hear, smell or feel — everything must be exactly just so. Our team controls the production of everything. We manage delivery, we oversee the assembly. These are big projects, there’s a lot of small detail involved. You really have to juggle many things. But ultimately, everything we create must delight the mind and the senses. That’s perhaps at the heart of our brand.”

Fifth Chukker

Fifth Chukker

Fifth Chukker: Well it certainly comes across in your homes.
Julia D Lantieri:
“Definitely. Over the past 15 years, we’ve worked around the world to create some really amazing projects. What they have in common wherever we go is the wish to produce something beautiful. When you say ‘house’ or ‘yacht’ it can sound very functional. But these are emotional spaces. For their owners and their families, they’re places of sanctity, places of pleasure. They’re where birthdays and celebrations are marked. They’ll see some incredible parties! These are where life’s most important moments are lived. So it’s understandable people want them to feel special. “Whether it’s the physical setting of a new home you’ve commissioned, or a centrepiece painting to decorate your yacht you want it to say something about you. Mass-produced items are fine, and are functional. But often they tend to lack soul. We find that by working with truly skilled craftspeople — by dealing with small ateliers direct — we can provide you with something beautiful. Lovingly handmade, and intended to last you a lifetime.”

Fifth Chukker: And how about you personally? Tell us a bit about your journey.
Julia D Lantieri:
“Well, I’m fascinated by people. I love to help them tell their story — to take a building, or a swimming pool, or even the crest of a yacht — and give it the personal touch. I love to unlock that special something which you know, deep inside, is true and precious to you, but perhaps you haven’t found a way to express it on the outside. I’m also obsessed about detail. One of my degrees is in business, and I learnt how sometimes even the smallest thing can become the most important. A brand like Apple understands this point well. So we make sure everything is always just perfect. Our team is very varied, with people from all over the world. But if there’s one thing that unites us, it’s this obsessive attention to detail.”

Fifth Chukker: How much does your Italian heritage play into that?
Julia D Lantieri:
“A lot, I’m sure. It’s just second nature to me really. Italy is so famous for detailed craftsmanship — not just in the mass-market brands everyone’s heard of, but going right back into history. It’s no coincidence Leonardo and Michelangelo were Italian!”

Fifth Chukker: So if we were setting out to create the Alter Ego look in our homes, what would be the best way to do it? You’re famous for supplying custom-made furniture. Who are your favourite makers?

Julia D Lantieri: “It’s impossible to name only one. Over the past fifteen years we’ve built up some special relationships: we understand our suppliers and they understand our unique clientele. When you come to Alter Ego, the first thing we do is to listen. If we don’t listen, how can we begin to understand what you need? We are famous of course for Alchymia, which is absolutely unique. It’s one of our favourite brands in the whole Alter Ego portfolio: it harmonises perfectly with what an interior should be.”

Fifth Chukker: What is it that makes Alchymia so special?
Julia D Lantieri:
“They’re a family owned Italian business going back hundreds of years, but their take on design feels so modern. They have an amazing way of melding the best of the past with a sense of the future, fusing influences from so many cultures and styles. Oriental, Art Deco, opera, Classical literature. It’s a real melting pot, but somehow it all works to create these enchanting pieces that will look great for many hundreds of years more. Fine woods, silver leaf, pretty gemstones — these things have a timelessness about them when they’re beautifully used. But we have more than 300 Italian producers in the wider Alter Ego family. We invite you to co-create with us. So the finished piece is usually something truly original. Then you can honestly say it’s a real work of art.”

Fifth Chukker: Yes, that bespoke co-creation is definitely an Alter Ego hallmark. Will you be offering the full service here in Nigeria, all the way from concept to completion?
Julia D Lantieri: “Absolutely. When the team first came to me with the recommendation we open a presence full-time in Nigeria, I said I would only do it if we could guarantee a complete level of service. So well before concept, we help you with the consultation phase. We make sure your desires have been understood. And then — to make sure they’re actualized — we offer an incredible level of hands-on client care. You’ll have your own personal manager throughout any project. They’ll be there whenever you need them — you can call up at night with an idea you’ve just had and by morning, they’ll find a way to fulfil it. They live to fulfil astounding projects. So they’ll speak to the contractors, make sure things run on time. Have all those conversations about technical stuff, and details, and the aesthetic, so you can relax and know you’re in the safest hands. We have a saying at Alter Ego — ‘we turn air castles into real castles’ — and it’s true. We’ll work with you to create the idea. And we won’t stop until it’s firmly in place.”

Fifth Chukker: What would you say are the benefits of going to you rather than direct to a manufacturer?
Julia D Lantieri:
“The most important of all is the final result. Our expertise is knowing how to create and combine all the elements. It might sound as if it would take up more time, but actually it’s quicker for you as a client because once we understand your requirements, we can quickly pare down thousands of options to half a dozen very strong choices. It doesn’t matter if it’s a property development or a bespoke carpet: we will quickly find the solution for you. And it’s also worth saying — though this is rarely a critical factor for most clients — that our deep relationships with the artisans and craft workshops mean they offer us very favourable pricing. So even if you were to go to a maker direct, without the benefit of any Alter Ego management service, there is no way they could offer the kind of negotiated discount they provide trading through us. In this sense, our service doesn’t cost anything. When clients appreciate this they realise what we do is terrific value for money, since the savings we make possible more than cover our management fees.”

Fifth Chukker: It does sound amazing. What would your advice be to anyone interested in finding out more?
Julia D Lantieri: “Get in touch! We’d love to hear from anyone reading this. Whether you’re looking for a very special gift, or seeking inspiration for how to celebrate your successes we can provide you with something beautiful, very often lovingly handmade, and intended to last you forever.”

Fifth Chukker Magazine | Vol 2 Issue 13