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.
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.”