On the day of our interview in Florence, a sweltering midsummer afternoon, the designer Gioia Bini called to say she was running about an hour late. I figured I’d kill the time with a coffee at the train station (my idea, I had just arrived from Rome), but she insisted I go straight to her family’s home on the banks of the Arno. “It’s too hot to be outside,” she said. “Ring the bell three times, and the housekeeper will let you in.”

A little while after I’d settled down at the kitchen table with my laptop, she arrived, wearing a pale-blue linen shirtdress of her own design (artfully rumpled, sleeves rolled up), hair windswept because the A/C was broken in the old Fiat Panda she’d been driving, skin tanned from a week in Amalfi with her cousins. Today, it turned out, she had been in Arezzo, visiting her 87-year-old tailor, who was making her a couple of suits for the fall.