It’s well past the witching hour on a pleasantly nippy night. The Gucci team has hosted one of their invariably raucous dinners including a bunch of editors from Indian publications, all sufficiently satiated with generous decanters of wine, piping hot Napolitana pastas and salvers of grilled fish. Roohi and Chetan Jaikishan hold centre court at this table at Bice, the charming Italian restaurant known to welcome the who’s who at Milan Fashion Week. We are transfixed by the artless sexiness of Kate Moss and the serene elegance of Catherine Deneuve even as the paparazzi swarm outside the eatery, eager for that one frame of the visiting divas.
It’s finally time to say goodbyes; we trudge out gingerly in our razor skinny heels only to enviously pause at the sight of Roohi, perched on the sidewalk, nonchalantly slipping out of her knee-high boots to transfer into smooth-as-butter moccasins. Chetan solicitously hovers above her, ready to pack her boots away before giving her his arm to walk the short way back to their suite at The Baglioni Hotel. And there, in that nanosecond, I have imprinted an image of this dynamic power couple – très chic, unabashedly down to earth and delightfully in love.
We chat over croissants and fruit platters the next morning as Roohi preps for her photoshoot with Verve; a stunning Gucci lamé pantsuit, deep smoky eyes and tumbling curls have been decreed look of the day, along with a statement necklace that we are scrambling to locate amongst various bags and jewellery pouches. “Honestly, I abhor packing,” she laments. “I always carry smart casual outfits that will take me from day to night and a selection of accessories to help pump up the ensemble for the evening.”
Talk veers to the dual reason why she’s in Milan. “Work and pleasure. We are in the business of Italian foods; the simplicity of Mediterranean cuisine provides for both taste and good health. We were amongst the first few companies to introduce olive oil and pasta to the Indian market and we’ve slowly ventured into cheeses, olives, vinegars…. Our new venture at RRO (R. R. Oomerbhoy) is especially exciting – cheese bars!” The pleasure bit is pure Gucci, or rather, Roohi’s first appearance on the brand’s front row to witness the unveiling of the Spring Summer 2014 collection that has taken place the day before. “I think I carried off my Gucci dress with great aplomb,” she winks. “Glamazon Blake Lively, perennials like Anna Wintour and Anna Dello Russo and not to forget the many sartorialists in their vertiginous heels posing for photographers who are stepping over each other to get that perfect ‘street style’ shot. Such a buzz in the air, it was all so infectious.”
“The fringed handbag” from the collection is going to be her must-have accessory for this summer season.
I’m marvelling at the generous expanse of her terrace suite at smack-in-the-middle-of-all-the-action Carlton Hotel Baglioni. “I absolutely love this location! It overlooks Via della Spiga and Via Montenapoleone, Milan’s most celebrated shopping streets, it’s close to the cathedral and the La Scala theatre and best of all, it’s so easy to have friends over on the terrace for pre or post dinner drinks.”
We’ve started our short walk towards a charming lunch stop with an al fresco seating. “Isn’t it wonderful to take walks through these narrow streets and chance upon little enchanting gardens that open up unexpectedly among houses?” she exclaims. Which is exactly how we would describe this gem of a restaurant, Bacara del Sambuco. The menu looks inviting to say the least but our day of work is far from over.
It’s impossible to ignore the grand beauty of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the shopping and eating hub right by the Duomo. Roohi’s treasured book store Rizzoli and favourite departmental giant Rinascente (“A secret tip – their hair salon is so good!”) reside here amidst a plethora of luxe fashion giants and high street favourites. But she also loves “the Brera district, with its eclectic collection of shops, galleries and bars. Peck is a lovely gourmet store where I stock up on gifts to bring back home and Excelsior gets my vote for chic clothing.”
We’re close to stopping for a quick drink – “Almost anytime is aperitif time for me; I love Aperol Spritz” – but that’s before we spot what looks like a spectacular Leonardo da Vinci exhibit around the corner and Roohi quickly gets down to scheduling a visit in her already packed itinerary. “Milan has always been ahead of its time – in style, culture and design – I never want to miss anything when I’m here.”
The last shot has been reserved for the Piazza Della Scala, Roohi’s architectural soft spot, “especially at night. I love going for operas at the La Scala, maybe that’s why…but then I also love the simple act of savouring the view from the rooftop of the Duomo – just breathing in the air, stealing a kiss and smiling.”
As if on cue, her partner in crime, Chetan, enters this scene, nattily dressed in a pistachio shirt, tan trousers and nifty brogues, gelato in hand. “He loves a quick espresso and gelato at Le Tre Gazzelle and Gelateria Grom,” she reveals, strolling hand-in-hand with him, discussing plans for the evening ahead. “I wish we had a weekend here; Bellagio is so perfect for a romantic break, an absolutely blissful little town on Lake Como, just a couple of hours from Milan.” Maybe cosy drinks at the couple’s preferred Bulgari Hotel Garden will have to do for now, followed by Roohi’s dinner recommendation, “Giacomo – for their amazing fish. Didn’t you just love Da Ilia the other night?” she enquires about the other eatery we recently visited – memories of their juicy bruschettas and fresh-from-the-pan wafer thin chips are still making my mouth water. “Let’s try Bar Sissi for dessert!” she proclaims. And so it carries on….