FENDI: HER­ITAGE & HIGHER PUR­POSE

The lux­ury Ital­ian fash­ion house is dig­ging deep into its own his­tory, with lit­tle con­cern for lo­gos and a lot of re­gard for le­gacy.

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As new mar­kets ex­plode across the East and the lux­ury sec­tor grows, the del­i­cate levers that once lifted the de­sire for pre­mium prod­ucts are stress­ing un­der the weight of ac­ces­si­bil­ity. Where’s the priv­i­lege in owning pieces that you can eas­ily pur­chase off-price and on­line? Where’s the rar­ity of ex­pe­ri­ence in bricks-and-mor­tar re­tail that re­peats in generic de­tail around the world? Ex­clu­siv­ity, it seems, is over­ex­posed as brands strug­gle to bro­ker the com­plex bal­ance be­tween sta­tus, sup­ply, so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, speed and the rapid ex­pan­sion of the mon­eyed mid­dle class. One no­table ex­cep­tion is Fendi, the third-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily busi­ness (now set­tled into the LVMH lux­ury sta­ble) that is re­dress­ing the per­cep­tions of ‘pre­mier­ness’ across prod­uct, im­age and com­mu­ni­ca­tion while fo­cus­ing on craft and sto­ry­telling as en­tice­ments into a quintessen­tially Ro­man world of op­u­lent ma­te­ri­al­ity. But Fendi’s real strate­gis­ing ge­nius re­sides in the soft-sell through struc­ture. The de­sign house is not just spend­ing within, but also in­vest­ing in the wider fab­ric of its home city. In so do­ing, it’s se­cur­ing the hearts, minds and pock­ets of any per­son who’s ever been se­duced by the spec­ta­cle of Rome. The com­pany’s mind­ful mar­ket­ing through phi­lan­thropy has fi­nanced the ren­o­va­tion of the Trevi Foun­tain — the Baroque beauty into which they have tossed more than a few coins ($3.3 mil­lion) — and re­stored the Palazzo della Civiltà Ital­iana, the mag­nif­i­cent sym­bol of Mus­solini’s de­luded fas­cist glam­our that now serves as Fendi’s head­quar­ters. The com­pany is also soon to col­lab­o­rate with the Gal­le­ria Borgh­ese to cre­ate a world-first cen­tre of ex­per­tise on the artist Car­avag­gio, the bad boy of the Baroque whose vis­cer­ally real cap­tures of Rome still res­onate with an un­set­tling moder­nity. Spear­head­ing this cam­paign of higher pur­pose through her­itage is Fendi chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Pi­etro Bec­cari, who came to Fendi in 2012 af­ter a role as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Louis Vuit­ton. Bec­cari has bal­anced the com­pet­ing forces of pop­ulism and priv­i­lege with furry mon­ster hand­bag charms for the as­pi­ra­tional and Haute Four­rures for the en­tre­pre­neur­ial new aris­toc­racy. “Since I came on­board, I have tried to strike a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the build­ings of the city and the brand, and the first act was the found­ing of the restora­tion of the [Trevi] foun­tain,” says Bec­cari. “They pro­posed to me to share the price of the ren­o­va­tion with an­other brand, but I re­fused; we had to be the only one.” His take on meld­ing moder­nity and tra­di­tion has trans­formed the small­est de­tail of the house, in­clud­ing re­in­stat­ing the brand’s 1955 logo (with the sub­tle ad­di­tion of the word ‘Roma’ to assert own­er­ship of re­gion) and re­plac­ing the pack­ag­ing’s Pan­tone yel­low with the ochre of Rome’s rain-washed walls. These are seem­ingly small evo­ca­tions of the eternal city, but they say much about Bec­cari’s de­sire to bed down in cul­ture and com­mu­nity. He com­mis­sioned the re­fur­bish­ment of a 17th-cen­tury heartof-Rome pile (for­merly the res­i­dence of one of the city’s old­est fam­i­lies) into Palazzo Fendi — a flag­ship of cul­ture, hos­pi­tal­ity and ac­com­mo­da­tion, in­clud­ing a pri­vate apart­ment for VIPs designed by Di­more Stu­dio’s Emil­iano Salci and Britt Mo­ran. It’s a dec­la­ra­tion of la dolce vita loom­ing over Largo Carlo Goldoni — the small square that re­cently sprouted a more-than-11-tonne bronze and mar­ble tree by Giuseppe Penone, the arte povera sculp­tor whose mon­u­men­tal con­tem­po­rary work Fendi com­mis­sioned and gifted to Rome. “Rome is a city that makes mil­lions of peo­ple dream,” Bec­cari says. “We sell things that no­body needs for a liv­ing. But we sell things that are help­ing peo­ple to live bet­ter. It is about the feel­ing that we cre­ate. Ul­ti­mately, lux­ury is all about emo­tion.”

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