They live in an apartment in the city center and commute, in a borrowed Land Rover, to the factories where their clothes are made. They are learning to live without the 24/7 creature comforts of New York: little ethnic food, no takeout, hummus at only one grocery store across town. The language barrier remains difficult. Of the family, Alyx, 3, is the most fluent.
“It feels like we’re here on a romantic weekend sometimes,” Ms. Williams said over a pasta lunch at the trattoria where they take most meals.
“It’s very welcoming,” Mr. Williams said. “No one cares that you don’t speak Italian. They’ll just keep talking to you. In Italian.”
Mr. Williams, 31, cuts a distinctive figure in Ferrara, with his close-cropped hair, faintly military wardrobe (he favors tailored trousers, boots and leather belts), the liberal spray of tattoos and the small ring pierced into the webbing between his lip and gums.
“Matt’s always surprised that people remember him,” Ms. Williams said. “I say, ‘You’re covered in tattoos.’”
It wasn’t always thus. Growing up in Central California, Mr. Williams had been artistic but without much recourse beyond high school sculpture class.
“Where I’m from, you don’t think of being in the arts or being in fashion as really a career,” he said.
He went to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to study art but dropped out after one semester. He was more interested spending summers in Los Angeles, helping a friend oversee production of his denim collection. It was there he met Ms. Williams, out at a club one night. She was celebrating her 23rd birthday; he was technically underage.
“I was working at Maxfield at the time,” Ms. Williams said, meaning the high-fashion Los Angeles boutique. (It now carries Alyx.) “I spent all of my paycheck on a Dries Van Noten shirt and shoes. He was like, ‘Those are Dries, right?’ I was like:…