But perhaps the most eye-catching feature was not the Picasso or other artworks on the wall, or the chandeliers shaped like pagodas, but the revelation that the house with its multiple floors is used by her only at weekends.
Instead, it is her two young sons who live there with a team of carers, while from Monday to Friday she is 600 miles away, running a fashion label in Milan — where she enjoys another equally glamorously appointed home.
The Oxford-educated oil mogul—who now helms the venerable French fashion house Vionnet—had taken England by storm, stirring London's staunch upper echelons and giving the tabloids a field day over her glitzy outings with Prince Andrew, her £28 million (.6 million) Holland Park manse, and her glittering array of former flames—from Fiat heir Lapo Elkann to Kazakh billionaire Timur Kulibayev, the father of her two young sons. " says Ashkenazi, who moved into the first two stories of a lilac-shuttered 19th-century palazzo in the city's Centro Storico neighborhood last fall. " she asks rhetorically, flinging open the French doors of her bedroom and stepping onto an ivy-draped balcony.
Goga Ashkenazi has a friend coming through Milan in a day, so she decides to have some people over—a small dinner for 12, she figures, though, by the morning of, it’s turned into a big dinner for 100 with a band and a DJ. During that time, she has witnessed a number of remarkable moments (such as the fall of communism, which happened when she was growing up in the Soviet empire) and scored many accomplishments of her own, including a degree at Oxford and the establishment of an oil-and-gas company in her ancestral homeland of Kazakhstan that earned her a fortune and made her one of the country’s first female oligarchs.
Around 6 p.m., on her way out of the office, her personal assistant, José, pokes his head in to tell Goga her driver’s downstairs. She is also famous for her high-end run of male companions, which has included Prince Andrew of Great Britain, Lapo Elkann (the Fiat heir and the closest thing to a reigning Italian prince), and Saif Qaddafi (a son of the late Libyan dictator).
“Goga has a very can-do-it attitude,” says her friend Gianluca Longo, a stylist in London. To me, fashion is art.” Growing up in Moscow, where her father served in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Central Committee, Goga lived for clothes. I saved every issue of Burda Moden—the German magazine with patterns that they allowed us to get. Diplomats brought them back.” For ten months preceding the acquisition, she holed up in Florence—less a hole, really, and more a 28-room villa on 80 hectares with an adjoining ten-room guesthouse, frescoes by Michelangelo, and a smashing view of the Duomo. “I studied history of art from nine to 12 and then, in the afternoon, outside activities: painting en plein air, or we went to museums.” “It was a very nourishing era in her life,” says Goga’s good friend Eva Cavalli, the onetime Miss Universe finalist who is married to the designer Roberto Cavalli and served as her unofficial adviser during this transitional phase.
“She loves clothes, so she buys a famous old company. Even though all the girls at her school were required to wear brown jumpers, she persuaded the seamstresses working on the ground floor of her apartment building to perform some custom tailoring. “She had parties that lasted for days—murder-mystery weekend, truffle hunting—and we talked about finding the right label to purchase.” Goga considered Ferre. “Owners didn’t put money in like they were supposed to.
Since 2012, she has been head of the fashion label Vionnet, based in Milan.