Joanna Lyle x La Foleia: In conversation with Gemma Richards

The new Joanna Lyle campaign takes form in a truly enchanting location, La Foleia, just a short journey from Milan and concealed in a natural chestnut forest close to the shores of Lake Maggiore. The collection sees colours inspired by Monet’s “Ninfee” or “Water Lilies” series, which perfectly recall the natural beauty that is the small Piemontese relais owned by our very own Gemma Richards and her partner, Niccolò.
In what appears to be a fairy tale landscape, two Neoclassical villas face each other mirroring themselves on a small lake. The reflections and movement of light and colour are rendered even more magical by the Mandarin and Brazilian ducks, who ripple the lily-pond shadows as they peacefully cross this perfect ecosystem.
We met up with Gemma, face of the Joanna Lyle collection, to talk about La Foleia.

Hi Gemma, please could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Gemma Richards, I am half English and half Italian. I grew up in Milan, where I am still based, but always went to British schools and studied Psychology in the UK. I’m most passionate about food, which led me to work in restaurants as a chef and I’ve now started working in a hospitality centre, which is currently helping me launch La Foleia. In 2021 my partner and I hope to open a boutique hotel and restaurant in Milan.

Can you tell us the story behind La Foleia?
The story behind La Foleia started about a year and a half ago, we found this place through some family friends who knew the previous owners. Although we came on a cold January day, it was grey and dark, the atmosphere was so magical that we saw its potential straight away and started imagining all the amazing things we could do with this place, so we decided to embark on La Foleia’s journey. We are now launching it, as a small relais, with several services… We have a Land Rover Defender and the boat on the lake, to help you explore the beautiful surrounding areas. Our main goal is to let people enjoy this incredible location and its privacy.

What is the reason behind the name, La Foleia?
La Foleia means “folly”, as it was real folly to build these houses here as there are chestnut trees and woods surrounding the whole property. The architects decided to clear the space and to build these two Neoclassical houses facing each other, with an artificial but natural lake in the middle, by buying the source from the Ticino river, and filling the lake up with water from the river, creating an incredible ecosystem and atmosphere in such a secluded and private place. So it really was a folly!

What is your favourite part of your home?
This is such a hard question because there are so many beautiful aspects of this place. I guess my favourite thing, as I’m obsessed with flowers and nature, is to have so many botanical species and flowers in the garden, and to be able to get up in the morning with a cup of coffee and be able to go and pick the flowers and take them inside, and to get into the little boat and go from one end of the lake to the other, it’s just so relaxing… you could spend the rest of your life doing that and that alone!

How does it feel to have escaped the city and to wake up to this small eden of nature?
Again, amazing. I really feel the need to be in touch with nature, so especially in a time like this to be able to be immersed in nature and to observe its rhythms, how it changes through the seasons, can teach you so much more than being in a city. If I could I would always love to wake up here. I will eventually have to move back to Milan but for now it has been such an amazing gift to wake up and look out on this amazing lake.

What do you love about the Joanna Lyle brand?
The reason I love the brand Joanna Lyle is that everything is so beautifully crafted and elegant, so effortlessly elegant. The mixture of the silk with the velvets, combined with the colours are simply beautiful. Wearing any one of the products will lift your spirits and make you feel fabulous!

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