World-renowned model Bianca Balti looks inconceivably fresh faced when I sit down to talk to her in Capri. We've taken shelter in the beautiful villa that Dolce & Gabbana have taken over for the day. Blue and white striped cushions sit on pristine white furniture outside, bowls overflowing with juicy, Italian lemons - a star note in the house's iconic Light Blue scents - adorn decorative side tables, and unflappable waiters are floating around in the searing heat proffering trays of heavily iced drinks. How are they swerving much as a single bead of sweat? I plan to find out later.
Similarly shine-free and cool in a crisp, white shirt, Bianca is at ease and smiling as I dive into questions, perhaps because she's an old hand at this now. Bianca, 38, has been modelling for Dolce & Gabbana since she was 20. Nearly two decades on and she describes her relationship with the legendary fashion house as a love story, and it's clear the pair have held on to that coveted honeymoon phase.
On Her Dolce & Gabbana Love Story
'It all started when I was a teenager, when I wasn't even modelling. My dad worked in magazines so I was already a part of that world in a way. I had Dolce & Gabbana posters hanging in my bedroom, their campaigns were iconic to me. I was 20 when I started modelling and one of my first ever jobs was with Dolce & Gabbana. The perfume campaigns came a little later and when they first asked me to do them I felt like I was being proposed to, it was huge for me, and we've been together ever since. It's crazy, going from posters on my wall to being in the campaigns myself, I'm scarily good at manifesting things.'
'Dolce & Gabbana never knew this, but Light Blue was my first grown-up perfume. It was the most popular perfume to have when I was around 15 in high school. Everyone in my class wore it, I still have one of the old bottles back home.'
On Shooting The Dolce & Gabbana Campaigns
'Everyone thinks these shoots are so glamorous, but the reality often involves weathering waves and rough sea conditions in the rain. A few years ago the waves were huge, and we're obviously in this little boat, it was tough. It rained for a whole week that time.'
'I actually find the fake kisses with David [Gandy] quite embarrassing too, we're friends, we're not attracted to each other and after 10 years we still have to pretend to kiss,' Bianca laughs, 'I'm not an actress, I'm a model, we don't normally have to do these sorts of things. I'll find myself thinking about my breath, things like that. It's awkward. It's always fake kisses too, never real ones, I always said I didn't want to do real kisses.'
On Starting Out In The Modelling World
'I didn't come to modelling in my teens, I was 20 when I first started. I was studying digital design at university in Milan, when I started modelling. I'd been scouted before, when I was a teenager, but my mother was always adamant that I finish my studies at high school. I started modelling in July and by September the opportunity to work with Dolce & Gabbana had come up. I was walking in their shows, having my first experience of fittings, which was incredible because I was so passionate about clothes and design. There was a time when I really wanted to sew and study tailoring in Barcelona, so experiencing this side of the fashion industry was amazing. Walking that first Dolce & Gabbana show was a real pinch me moment. Giselle was there and I had had her on my wall for years. It's so embarrassing. She's so nice and every time I see her, even nowadays, she'll greet me and I go bright red. I can feel it, I feel the heat.'
'Then of course, because I'd signed an exclusivity deal with Dolce & Gabbana, there was a lot of interest from other brands, they were like "who is this girl?". It was a crazy time, I feel very lucky.'
You have to be really strong to be a model
'You have to be really strong to be a model, though. Casting is not a nice process. You're often in a long line of girls being looked up and down like you're a piece of meat, and often being rejected at the end of it all. And who's really strong at that sort of age? I was 20 but some of the girls at those castings are as young as 16. It must be so tough at that age, when you're full of insecurities anyway.'
'A lot has changed in the modelling world in that there's far more accountability now, that's probably a product of social media. Before the fashion industry was in such a bubble, everyone thought they knew it all, that they were untouchable, that they made the rules, but now they really have to pay attention to what's going on in the world. There are a lot of downsides to social media, but this has to be one of the great things to have come from it.'
On Self-Care And Resolutions
'I want to use every spare moment to learn something new, whether that means reading a book, listening to a podcast, something that takes me away from my thoughts, because my head is always spinning. For me, that's the best form of self-care. My favourite podcast at the moment has to be one called It's Not Normal, It's Toxic. It's really good. As women, being in a toxic relationship tends to be quite a common experience, and the subject matter centres on learning to recognise what is toxic for you, which is one of my focuses right now.'
On The Best Beauty Advice To Date
'My mum once told me to reserve certain beauty looks for special occasions. She said if you go all out all of the time, no one is ever going to notice when you take things up a gear. I'm quite minimal most days when it comes to make-up, that's just my style, and I know that when I wear a full face of make-up I'm going to get a reaction, I keep it as a weapon.'