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Clemente siblings: good taste times four

Chiara, Nina, Pietro and Andrea Clemente, offspring of a contemporary painter and an avant-garde theater actress, are a famously stylish bunch.

May 24, 2009|Emili Vesilind

Where does good taste come from? In the case of siblings Chiara, Nina, Pietro and Andrea Clemente, a famously stylish crew based (mostly) in L.A., there's no doubt that growing up in an art incubator of a family had more than a little to do with it.

Their father, Francesco, a noted contemporary painter, and their mother, Alba, an avant-garde theater actress from Italy, made their downtown New York art studio/home a popular gathering spot for friends including writer Fran Lebowitz, model/actress Lauren Hutton and, back in the day, artists Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The family's residences there and in Rome and Taos, N.M., and on Italy's Amalfi Coast, are the epitome of uncomplicated chic, said Paige Powell, a family friend who was a close confidant of Warhol's. "Everything around them is innately beautiful," she added. "Everything they do is so natural and effortless. They're so Italian and open and warm. And every single person in the family is extraordinary."

Manhattan-based Chiara, 31, the oldest of the four, is the only next-generation Clemente cultivating a career in the arts. A filmmaker by trade (she studied film at the Pasadena Art Center), she saw her first full-length documentary, "Our City of Dreams," debut in New York in February, and in L.A. earlier this month at the Laemmle Music Hall. (It's slated to run on the Sundance channel at 7 p.m. Monday)

The film, a glimpse into the lives and inspirations of five female artists in New York -- Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Ghada Amer, Marina Abramovic and Swoon -- was four years in the making, with two full years of filming.

"Doing the film was my way of rediscovering New York," said Chiara, who lived in Rome for four years after college. Feminist and contemplative at its core, the film is visually striking, stringing interviews together with expansive cityscapes and moving aesthetic details.

Chiara's personal style is as bold and intentional. Petite and put-together -- with an eye for bright colors and well-tailored shapes -- she favors smaller, less obvious brands like Katy Rodriguez, Giambattista Valli and Larsen Gray. "Chiara is such a lady," noted her sister Nina. "Her style is so feminine, and she's so Italian -- I'm a little jealous of that."

The filmmaker is regularly snapped by the paparazzi in New York, often with her striking significant other of 5 1/2 years, Indian jewelry designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia (who pairs his custom-made suits with turbans).

When you're a Clemente in Manhattan -- and happen to boast the family's timeless brand of beauty -- it's hard to sidestep photographers. Just ask Nina. The 27-year-old "escaped" to Venice Beach from New York a year and a half ago after seeing the word "socialite" in front of her name in print.

"It saddened me," she said. "I think we've very much been raised in a way to stand on our own two feet. We were all raised with values that [dictated that] we work."

After dabbling in fashion as a stylist and designer in New York, she settled on one of her mother's great talents and loves -- cooking. The star of "Cucina di Nina," a cooking show on Plum TV, a lifestyle channel available online ( www.plumtv.com) and in resort locales like Aspen, Colo., and Nantucket, Mass., the middle Clemente is a younger, racier Rachael Ray, cooking Italian dishes with high-profile guests at her side, including Salman Rushdie, Hutton (her godmother) and her friend and neighbor, Rosario Dawson.

Her taste in fashion, on screen and off, is very va-va-voom -- body-hugging dresses, jeans and tank tops. "I'm curvaceous," she said, "and I think it's nice to have a sense of pride in your body."

Pride in appearance (and, undoubtedly, family fame) landed twins Pietro and Andrea Clemente, 21, on Vanity Fair's international best dressed list last year -- a family distinction (their mother is in that list's hall of fame) that they take in stride.

"To be on the same list as Michelle Obama as a college student was bizarre," said Andrea, "but I think it's hilarious."

The twins live in Marina del Rey and are history majors at Loyola Marymount in their junior year ("If I knew what I wanted to be, I wouldn't be a history major," Pietro said, half jokingly.)

"We're very big suit wearers," Pietro said, naming Prada and Hugo Boss as favorite brands. "But we don't wear suits to class." For daytime, it's Levi's teamed with T-shirts and sneakers by Brazilian label Osklen.

The two share clothes -- everything but ties, which Andrea never wears. "I don't like them," he said. "It's my inner Euro-trash. I have to show a little chest."

Still, their personal style icons (Lebowitz for Pietro; Francesco for Andrea) hearken back to their New York childhood -- where that magical combustion of glittering soirees, 24-hour art and home-cooked meals first took hold.

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evesilind@gmail.com

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