“Precious for me is the worst form of luxury,” Alexander Werz says. “Luxury is something you need to live with, something you need to use—every day.” Certainly, he’s one to know. A longtime veteran of the fashion industry, Werz has, for the past decade, directed the international expansion of Karla Otto—a leading public relations and branding firm with crème-de-la-crème clients that include Chloé, YSL, Calvin Klein, Marni, and Oscar de la Renta.
It’s a career that has brought him around the world and back many, many times over. “I have been a restless bird,” notes Werz, who was just named Karla Otto’s co-chief executive officer this past winter. “I usually never stay more than three days in one place.”
However, when the pandemic halted his peripatetic ways, Werz found himself staying put. It turned out to be a happy, productive pause—an opportunity to hit reset and enjoy his new Milan apartment, a plant-filled oasis in a modernist building off the Piazza della Repubblica. It was work that led him there. “When I joined Karla Otto, I started to come even more to Milan,” recalls Werz, who, at the time, lived primarily between Paris and London. “It became my dream to live here. I love Italy—the architecture, the colors, the food. Nowhere is the art de vivre more inspiring.”
His wish list included great bones—1950s or ’60s, to be exact—with great light and great floors. (“Here in Milan, you are obsessed with marble, terrazzo, wood.”) And it needed to be comfortable but not vast. “I live alone,” he notes. “It’s good to live alone but not good in a too big apartment.” After visiting several listings, among them buildings by Gio Ponti, he experienced what he describes as a mamma mia moment. Ushered through a Lucio Fontana–designed lobby and up the elevator, Werz arrived on the seventh floor to find a sun-dappled apartment that had previously been transformed by Milanese maestro Renzo Mongiardino. Just like that, he says, “I fell in love.”
Working with local architect Giorgia Longoni, a repeat Karla Otto collaborator, Werz set about refreshing the interiors—preserving Mongiardino’s cheerful pilasters, arches, and alcoves but updating the systems and cladding the walls in new moss-colored silk. “Green is very Italian,” he notes. “Everyone looks great in green.” The abundant planters and greenery reveal the hand of Derek Castiglioni, the celebrated Milanese landscape designer, while the eclectic furnishings reveal Werz’s own style evolution. —Sam Cochran