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The Italian fashion brands that are rebuilding Rome


From the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, Rome’s iconic sites are a rich source of inspiration for local designers – who are repaying their creative debts with generous restoration investment. From Tod’s, Fendi and Bulgari investing millions in restoring iconic landmarks to the younger designers reflecting the city in their work, Rome’s leading luxury labels are showing serious love for their spiritual home

Sally McIlhone ,

Roman designers need only step outside their doors to find inspiration. In a city that boasts stunning architecture, captivating historical sites and some of the most notable luxury brands in the world, it’s understandable the latter would be inspired by the former. Indeed, some labels are so taken with the enduring icons of the Eternal City that they have felt compelled to celebrate them in uniquely dedicated manners, from investing in renovations or holding fashion shows with the sites as a backdrop.

Tod’s restores the Colosseum
Leather goods brand Tod’s has worked in partnership with the city authorities responsible for architectural heritage to restore the city’s most impressive historical structure, the Colosseum amphitheatre. President and CEO Diego Della Valle is said to have contributed €25m to the project, the first phase of which took five years and was completed in July 2016. First the surfaces were mapped, and then cleaned using gentle sprays of mist to remove decades-worth of dirt and grime, before cavities and cracks were repointed and loose stucco replaced with more authentic materials. The restoration covered 13,300 square metres of surface and the installation of new gates. The Colosseum’s appearance is vastly improved, with formerly blackened areas now gleaming white and enticing passers-by to enter. The next phase of renovation will tackle the underground areas, where gladiators and animals once awaited their fate. The aim is to allow visitors to be able to enter these areas from outside the Colosseum’s walls.

‘When the arena’s completed, this place will be even more beautiful,’ Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini told the Guardian newspaper. The restoration will also mean that the amphitheatre can in future be used for what Franceschini refers to as ‘cultural events of the highest level.’

Fendi fosters the Trevi fountain
The Trevi Fountain, a spectacular water feature surrounded by statues of mythical figures and noble steeds rising from the depths, has been restored by Fendi at a cost of over €2m, with the brand calling the project ‘a labour of love’. The completed works were unveiled on 3 November 2015, and Fendi further celebrated the site by holding its 90th anniversary couture show at the fountain in July 2016. A transparent catwalk allowed models to glide across the surface of the water, which seemed appropriate for a show called Legends and Fairy Tales.

Pietro Beccari, CEO of Fendi, said of the restoration: ‘Fendi is Rome, and Rome is Fendi. Fendi has a deep bond with Rome, the city our house was founded in 90 years ago and that has always inspired us. The funding of these restoration projects was very important not just as an act of philanthropy but as a way to thank the Eternal City for all that we have been given in these years.’

Bulgari renovates the Spanish Steps
Bulgari has approached its renovation of the Spanish Steps in a similar spirit of gratitude. ‘Rome has always been the number one source of inspiration for Bulgari so it is right to give back to Rome what Rome has given Bulgari,’ said chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin. And give back the company has, in the form of a €1.5m investment ensuring the Spanish Steps were cleaned and repaired with appropriate attention to detail. The jewellery brand has also invested in an ongoing project to restore the mosaics in the Baths of Caracalla. The newly renovated steps were reopened in September last year, prior to Bulgari’s accessories presentation. Now, every fan of the film Roman Holiday can stroll down the Spanish Steps in the style of Audrey Hepburn, before stepping inside the Bulgari boutique to give back to the brand that’s given back to Rome.

Endless inspiration
Jewellery designer Delfina Delettrez draws inspiration from a less high-profile monument, a fountain in the Coppedè district built in the 1920s by architect Gino Coppedè. Blending medieval, baroque and art deco and nouveau styles, the architect’s use of imagery has influenced Delettrez’s work. ‘It’s all hidden symbolism, but with an ironic touch. It’s like mixed fairytales, coming up and creating a whole different parallel universe; so there is gothic, art deco, liberty, the medieval,’ says Delettrez. ‘It’s incredible.’

From fairytale fountains to iconic steps and the most impressive historical site in the city, Rome continues to provide inspiration to a new generation of designers – who, in turn, do not hesitate to show their appreciation and gratitude to the Eternal City.

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