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True Colors

Designer Soledad Twombly weaves old-world tradition and modern chic into her singular creations.

Soledad Twombly's Roman atelier is a space that manages to be modern and spare as well as in- credibly vibrant. The white walls and pale floors are punctuated by brilliant colors—whether from an oversize canvas of contemporary art or from a mannequin wearing one of the richly embroidered jackets from the designer's tailored, ethnic-inspired clothing line. Just off the Spanish Steps, this second-floor studio belonged to Ingres when he was the director of the French Academy in the early 1800s. These days it's where Twombly, the Argentine-born daughter-in-law of artist Cy Twombly, takes orders, by appointment only, for the limited-edition pieces she designs under the label Sole.

Five years ago, after more than a decade in the New York fashion world, Twombly decided to pursue what she calls "a form of creativity in clothing that commercial manufacturing has killed—I don't know how to put it in more romantic terms. Look at the clothes deep inside," she explains, turning back the sleeve of a slim black reversible jacket to reveal its ikat lining. "Every jacket has a secret."

Jackets come in all sorts of fabulous fabrics—nubby red silk piqué, striped organza, and tweed; the silk linings are made from handstitched patterns inspired by Mogul prints, Turkish rugs, and the borders of Persian paintings. The sleeves of a black kimono jacket flip up to show off its yellow silk exquisitely embellished with orange and green (sashed at the waist, it is possibly the world's only slimming kimono). A black wool dress is belted in pink snakeskin. "Color is everything to me," Twombly says. Extra splashes come from the accessories she designs, necklaces and earrings dripping in coral, crystal, and onyx, along with modern espadrilles in lemony leather.

Though Twombly works out of this atelier, she and her husband have residences in Milan, New York, and Argentina, where her family has been raising Thoroughbreds for more than 200 years.

Yet no matter what continent Twombly is on, her style is constant, uncluttered, and familiar: big white spaces, rich fabrics, Asian and modern art, and long tables for big family meals (the glass-and-metal version in the studio happens to have been designed by her father-in-law).

Twombly stresses the importance of having a solid foundation, both in fashion and in life. "At my trunk shows, I'm always giving out advice," she says. "If someone wants to buy ten different things, I tell them to only buy the three items that they really love. There is a balance you must keep in order to live well; I'm looking for it all the time."

Clothing and accessories start at $240 for a pair of coral earrings and run to $1,800 for a silk jacquard jacket. Sole is located at 34 Via Gregoriana, Rome; 39-06/6992-4512. Twombly also holds a series of trunk shows throughout the United States. For a schedule, visit her Web site at www.soledadtwombly.com.