The Australian - Wish Magazine - - CONTENTS - STORY MI­LANDA ROUT

Bal­loons, presents, sweets: the Ro­man brand’s new line is about re­cap­tur­ing the sim­ple fes­tive plea­sures of child­hood.

The Ital­ians know how to cel­e­brate life. It starts with their lan­guage, the fab­u­lous ex­pres­sions like arte di vi­vere (the art of liv­ing), la dolce vita (the sweet life) and festa (party). It is in their his­tory. It is in the Carnevale in Venice, be­gin­ning in 1162, in which Vene­tians were al­lowed to wear masks to avoid any next-day re­grets. It is in the lav­ish balls thrown by Ital­ian roy­alty in Rome or in Puglia where lo­cals danced the taran­tella – thought to heal spi­der bites – un­til dawn.

It is the joy of these cel­e­bra­tions that lux­ury Ital­ian house Bulgari has cap­tured in its lat­est high jew­ellery col­lec­tion, called Festa. More than 100 one-off pieces were un­veiled in what Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin de­scribes as the per­fect lo­ca­tion: Venice. “Just look where we are,” he tells WISH, laugh­ing, as we sit in the wis­te­ria-clad court­yard of the Aman ho­tel over­look­ing the Grand Canal. It is the mid­dle of sum­mer and pri­vate boats cruise up be­tween water­side palaces to the ho­tel con­tain­ing beau­ti­ful, happy, glam­orous peo­ple. It would not have been too much of a shock to see Sophia Loren or El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor step out of one of the boats.

“Be­ing in Venezia, you can ex­pe­ri­ence a joy like no other,” he says. “It is known for the Carnevale and the Re­gatta Stor­ica [a boat race and fes­ti­val]. It is a city that has thrown the best par­ties for cen­turies. In all the palaces along the Grand Canal, which to­day you see as liv­ing mu­se­ums, don’t for­get that two cen­turies ago, it was one of the cra­zi­est ex­trav­a­gant places. So I think throw­ing a party which de­fines a new style of Bulgari – Festa – in a city of festa is very ap­pro­pri­ate.”

And a party did they throw. Bulgari flew in its top clients from around the world, along with se­lect me­dia, to see the col­lec­tion for the first time. It kicked off pro­ceed­ings with a view­ing of the pieces – worth in the tens of mil­lions – at the Aman. Guests ar­rived by pri­vate boat and were taken in­side to see the in­cred­i­ble jew­ellery and watches, which were di­vided into themes. Called In­fanzia (child­hood), the first theme cel­e­brates the very first fes­tas you ex­pe­ri­ence. There are rings like cakes (in choco­late, rasp­berry, vanilla and le­mon va­ri­eties) and neck­laces of tiny bal­loons made out of aqua­marines, emer­alds and amethysts. There are di­a­mond-clad ice-cream and lol­lipop brooches. There are even birth­day presents in this col­lec­tion, a stun­ning gift box neck­lace and a pink gold, di­a­mond, pink tour­ma­line and emer­ald toy train choker and bracelet called Trenino Choo Choo, or little choo-choo train.

“I thought these things are not often seen in jew­ellery but we made them real pieces of art,” Bulgari cre­ative di­rec­tor of jew­ellery, Lucia Sil­vestri, tells WISH of the In­fanzia pieces. “They are from my mem­o­ries when I was a child and I was go­ing with my par­ents to the fes­tas, the par­ties, with the lol­lipops, the bal­loons, the pa­per flags. With the bal­loons, we cre­ated a neck­lace that is very fun but it is also made of jew­els and so a wear­able work of art. We just sold it.”

Sil­vestri started at Bulgari while at univer­sity un­der the guid­ance of chair­man Paolo Bulgari, and be­came a for­mi­da­ble gem hunter for the Rome-based jew­ellery house. Founded by Paolo’s Greek-born grand­fa­ther Sotiris Boul­garis (Ital­ianised to Sotirio Bulgari) in 1884, Bulgari is fa­mous for ex­per­i­ment­ing with colours and mixes of stones. This style is res­onat­ing with cus­tomers more than ever: Bulgari was cited as key to the 14 per cent growth in the watches and jew­ellery divi­sion

of par­ent com­pany LVMH in the first half of 2017.

For the Festa col­lec­tion, Sil­vestri used stones she had been col­lect­ing since 2014, in­clud­ing a 180-carat sap­phire from an an­tique neck­lace. “One year ago in June we started think­ing about themes and the theme that was close to Bulgari, is the festa be­cause Bulgari is a festa of colours, of joy, of tra­di­tions,” Sil­vestri says. “So we started with the joy of the festa and we fin­ish with that too. I hope you can feel that be­hind this jew­ellery, there is a lot of joy and play­ful­ness and lots and lots of laugh­ter.”

The afore­men­tioned sap­phire ended up in a di­a­mond neck­lace called sim­ply – again demon­strat­ing Ital­ians’ won­der­ful way with words – Il Mag­nifico. “It is so alive, so full of life in­side it, the stone has great per­son­al­ity,” Sil­vestri says of the gem. “It is a very spe­cial one; it is one of the best cabo­chon-cut sap­phires in the world.” The piece is part of the sec­ond theme of the col­lec­tion, known as Principesse (Princesses), in­spired by the lav­ish balls thrown by Italy’s royal and no­ble fam­i­lies through­out his­tory. There are also pieces named after the fa­mous princesses who or­gan­ised the par­ties in their palaces, from Maria Mancini, Princess Colonna, who lived in the 1600s and had a pen­chant for pearls, to Paulina Bon­a­parte, Princess Borgh­ese, who was fa­mous not only for be­ing Napoleon’s sis­ter but for her nu­mer­ous love af­fairs.

The third theme of the col­lec­tion is Tradizione, which takes its cue from the many foods in Ital­ian life that are cel­e­brated, in­clud­ing the olive har­vest and chillies (his­tor­i­cally, and some­what para­dox­i­cally, con­sid­ered both an aphro­disiac and a pro­tec­tion against in­fi­delity). The pep­per­on­cino neck­laces have dozens of green tour­ma­lines, rubel­lites and amethysts to rep­re­sent the fiery pods. There is also a spi­der web­like di­a­mond neck­lace – com­plete with tiny spi­ders – that pays homage to the month-long Taran­tella Dance Fes­ti­val in Puglia.

“I am re­ally proud. I take this mo­ment to re­ally en­joy the col­lec­tion. And I am re­ally happy to meet the clients and share their joy,” says Sil­vestri of the un­veil­ing of the Festa col­lec­tion in Venice. “It is im­por­tant that our clients ex­pe­ri­ence what is around us when we are cre­at­ing,” adds Babin of why Bulgari goes to such lo­ca­tions to show­case its high jew­ellery. “This is re­ally an en­vi­ron­ment to pro­vide you with clues which will have you look­ing at the jew­ellery in a dif­fer­ent and deeper way.”

And then it is time for the festa to cel­e­brate Bulgari’s Festa. The set­ting is the Scuola Grande Della Mis­eri­cor­dia, a 13th-cen­tury build­ing just off the Grand Canal. Guests ar­rive by pri­vate boats and are greeted by suited gentle­men who prof­fer one hand to help them grace­fully off the boat and on to the pier (not as easy as it looks) and the other to give them a glass of cham­pagne. Tourists gather to get a glimpse of the brand’s am­bas­sadors – mod­els Lily Aldridge and Bella Ha­did and Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Alicia Vikan­der among oth­ers – who walk the pink car­pet adorned in spec­tac­u­lar jew­els.

The ground floor of the venue has been trans­formed into a cat­walk where the fash­ion show kicks off with a Vene­tian mask-clad jazz band play­ing in front of a gi­ant Festa sign. Mod­els, dressed in 50s-style corsets, emerge from a dress­ing room and dance joy­fully along the cat­walk decked out in Sil­vestri’s cre­ations. The party then moves up­stairs to a for­mal din­ner cre­ated by Miche­lin-starred chef Luca Fantin (who was named the best Ital­ian chef in the world in 2014 by pres­ti­gious Ital­ian culi­nary jour­nal Iden­tità Golose) where the cham­pagne con­tin­ues to flow freely.

At mid­night, guests are show­ered with sil­ver con­fetti and sil­ver cur­tains are pulled back to re­veal the spec­tac­u­lar after-party: a hid­den dance floor with a fair­ground carousel. There is more cham­pagne, a dessert bar and even a ge­lato cart manned by none other than Fantin him­self. Rev­ellers tear up the dance floor to tunes by Ital­ian DJ Graziano della Neb­bia un­der a gi­ant Venice sign.

A few hours later, par­ty­go­ers, in­clud­ing WISH, emerge from Bulgari’s Festa into the cool Venice night to wait­ing pri­vate boats, all no doubt think­ing the same thing: the Ital­ians re­ally know how to throw a good party. La dolce vita in­deed.

Lucia Sil­vestri, above; Bella Ha­did on the dance­floor carousel; a model wear­ing Il Mag­nifico with its 180-carat sap­phire; a bal­loon neck­lace and iced lolly brooch from the Festa col­lec­tion

Bulgari mod­els and the jazz band at the Venice festa, a cup­cake ring and chilli neck­lace

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