Whilst I’ve been out in Seoul and now Hong Kong, I’ve become that annoying girl welding a giant phone and Face Timeing unnecessarily on the go, because a normal phonecall doesn’t suffice anymore.  In addition to being able to see and speak to the boy, it’s also nice to check up on the physical state of the house.  You know I’ve been away from home long enough when I yearn to hoover up balls of fluff on surfaces.  Homesick is an understatement.

Before I left, I got my fill of my N15 hood with a shoot I did to celebrate  Gucci‘s revamped e-commerce site.  It’s not the first time these streets have seen expensive fashions floating about but somehow, these particular Gucci ensembles don’t fall into a chasm with my surroundings.  Simple isn’t the right word but they’re certainly the less decorated pieces from Gucci’s spring summer 2016 collection.

Now that it feels like Alessandro Michele has properly bedded into Gucci, tending to his garden of flora, embellishment and emotive energy, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of proving any previous naysayers wrong with solid sales.  Gucci’s profits are on the up and if recent visits to various stores (in London, Paris and in Milan) are of any indication, then 2016 should see that revenue graph trend tilt upwards.  Seeing it physically bought and worn in real life is the all-important component to the 180 degree transformation of the house.  For all the ornamentation on the runway – the romantic prints, the lavish embroidery and the abundance of frou in the form of marabou, sequins and cats, there is something beneath all that surface that is anchored to a reality and also to the recognisable codes of Gucci.  It’s why loafers with pearl studded heels are flying out of the stores and onto the pavements.  Likewise there’s a resurgence of appreciation for that famous tri-color of forest green, deep red and navy blue.  And in a short period of time, Michele has established his own Gucci tropes that fall into a familiar lexicon of masculine day suits, pretty Sunday Best dresses, topped off with slippers, glasses and a hat of some sort.  It’s this appealing consistency that is working.

In the cold light of an N15 day, these Gucci garms stand sturdy and don’t seem nowhere near as fanciful or whimsical as perhaps the runway shows might suggest.  All the better to breathe a different life into Michele’s rose-tinged, Glen Luchford-lensed vision.

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0E5A9191Gucci Sylvie leather shoulder bag and leather mid-heel loafer

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0E5A9269Gucci lace dress with web knit worn with vintage Gaultier Junior top underneath

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0E5A8815 Gucci Tian GG Supreme Boston bag

0E5A8861aGucci button down silk shirt and flared jeans with anchor

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0E5A9474Gucci Herbarium Snake silk dress

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0E5A9499Gucci Princetown flower jacquard slipper worn with Tabio glitter socks

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0E5A9371Gucci glitter web trainers with studs

0E5A9361abGucci Heritage cotton crêpe jacket, matching tailored trousers and green lace shirt

0E5A9384Gucci Dionysus GG Supreme embroidered bag

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0E5A9593Gucci Tian GG supreme Boston bag

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0E5A9545Gucci New Palma Herbarium print jacket and matching trousers worn with vintage shirt underneath

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By now, you will have heard the resoundingly positive and effusive verdict on Dover Street Market London‘s move to Haymarket after it has hosted a friends and family opening last Friday.  Any previous doubts of a moving from Dover Street Market’s original Dover Street location to a stretch of road that is mainly known as a thoroughfare for tourists to shuttle from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square or Pall Mall were duly dispelled as soon as you entered the store (not from 18-22 Haymarket but on a side entrance on Orange Street).

Dover Street Market London, being the original instigator back in 2004, was always the idiosyncratic big sister, leading and paving the way for the Ginza and New York locations to spawn and grow.  At Haymarket, Adrian Joffe and Rei Kawakubo take back ownership of that identity because thet now have three times the space (31, 384 sq ft. to be precise) to play with as well as a rooted Grade II listed building, that has its own innately beautiful and original features to both maintain and disrupt.  Originally erected in 1912 by Thomas Burberry (up until 2007 this was Burberry’s headquarters), Kawakubo has left the exterior unchanged, as well as retaining the original ceilings, windows and central staircase.  In that respect, it already marks itself apart from the other DSM locations.  When you have elements such as Kawakubo’s black metal skeleton, giant lamp posts by Daniel Young and Christian Giroux and huge white spheres, engulfing the windows and coursing through the high ceilings and original woodwork, you have yourself an appropriate architectural representation of what Dover Street Market’s ethos is all about.

“I want to create a kind of market where various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos; the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision.”  This is how Kawakubo sums up the raison d’être of Dover Street Market.  Old/new, established/undiscovered, luxury/street, expensive/affordable – these contrasts roll around all four floors like never before.  The notable new additions at Haymarket such as an installation of Burberry’s original trenches pays homage to the past in a way that feels new.  They somehow sit nicely next to Simone Rocha’s perspex and cornice filled space, which becomes the focal point of the ground floor, as soon as you enter the store.  With its higher ceilings and vaulted skylight, the playful elements such as a stack of chairs built up by Stephen Jones to showcase his millinery or the newspaper stand for new culture and style publication Luncheon, become more pronounced.

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0E5A8514Lighting design on ground floor ‘Alexithymia’ by Dan Young and Christian Giroux

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0E5A8770Simone Rocha space featuring flower moulded cornicing encased in perspex

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0E5A8517Comme des Garçons Homme Plus space

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0E5A8523Burberry’s installation of original trench coats restored exclusively for Dover Street Market 

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0E5A8513Exclusive debut for the newly-launched Luncheon magazine

The central staircase as well as the wooden-fronted lift form a defined route of discovery as you clamber up the stairs and take in the grand arched windows. They provide portholes into external atriums as well as artwork by Georgian self taught artist Niko Pirosmani. I prefer to go up floor by floor, ascending from first to second to third and then finally going back down into the basement.  Most will go straight to the top, enjoy the bigger and more extensive offerings of Rose Bakery, and then work their way down.

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0E5A8526Original windows that back onto Niko Pirosmani artwork

The way each floor is laid out in a sort of circular formation that bends round that central staircase means it feels like there are more nooks and crannies to explore.  Looking at the press notes, I had to face palm a few times because I realised there were whole sections I had completely missed.  With more floor space though, the mega maisons like Dior and Celine can flourish in their designated areas and then anchor brands like Comme des Garçons also have room to spread out.  With thte enlarged scale of Kawakubo’s sculptural pieces for her main womenswear, it deserves the extra floor space.  On the first floor, perhaps the most surprising section is the three changing rooms devoted to Vetements.  It looks like an area in flux and true to form, Vetements hoodies and jeans were flying out of the changing room curtains and into people’s shopping bags, making it one of the top selling brands at DSM.

0E5A8528White Pillar Space on first floor with ‘Frozen Waterfall’ chandeliers by Rei Kawakubo that feature LED lighting in clusters of ten suspended from the ceiling

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0E5A8574Dior space based around the haute couture 2016 set

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0E5A8568Comme des Garçons space with gold panelling by Rei Kawakubo, contrasting beautifully with that lush blue velvet from the SS16 collection

0E5A8553J.W. Anderson climbing frame space inspired by playgrounds from his hometown in Northern Ireland

0E5A8547Alaiä space designed by artist Kris Ruhs

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0E5A8557A Roberts Wood top to add to a newer roster of designers that include Shushu Tong, Zu Xhi and Helen Lawrence

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0E5A8772Vetements space intended to be installed in a dressing room area 

Up into the second floor and the furniture installations become more apparent with hybrid wardrobes housing a much bigger Sacai area as well as a new section for The Row held in what looks like a giant version of those tray cupboards you’d have at primary school.  Kawakubo’s metal skeleton skulking over the doorway suggests a structural heft, that marries up with the heavyweight creators of this floor such as Raf Simons and Alessandro Michele for Gucci.  They form a contrasting foil for one another as Simoms’ concrete blocks come up against Gucci’s green velvet.  Tucked away in a corner is Paul Harnden’s nook, left deliberately derelict with building materials and in-progress plastic sheeting.  This is perhaps one of my favourite parts of the store as you get to hide away with Harnden’s roughed up textures and weathered garments.

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0E5A8583Metal Dinosaur by Rei Kawakubo wrapping the doorway of the second floor

0E5A8584A vintage double wardrobe by Charlotte Perriand housing The Row with Pedro Cabrita Reis’s lighting installation ‘The Sky Above” 

0E5A8597A hybrid furniture installation by Tokyo based art collective GELCHOP for Sacai

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0E5A8638Raf Simons space featuring his AW16 collection exclusively for Dover Street Market

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0E5A8614Michael Costiff World Archive

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0E5A9066Inside a nook too the side of the second floor is Paul Harnden’s space, designed by Nicolai Schmetna with materials found in Haymarket

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Arriving at third floor and that extra floor space feels even more apparent as you find yourself at a much bigger Rose Bakery and more designated sections that make stable brands like Egg, Comme Comme and Comme Girl more spread out.  The Egg space in particular is a delight with its closet of pastoral striped jackets and oversized straw shoes.  On this floor, maverick female creators are celebrated as Elena Dawson gets a more fleshed out Victoriana-inflected space, Sara Lanzi’s clothes are strung up along paper garments and Molly Goddard has her own candy-hued corner.  This new DSM also sees the debut of Frances von Hofmannsthal’s installation of her father Lord Snowden’s photography studio, alongside a rail of painter’s smocks made out of the dyed backdrops that Snowden used in his famous portraits.  It’s a special visual treat that gets due diligence up here.

0E5A8639Peering up into the third floor

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0E5A8715Elena Dawson’s space featuring a Victorian carriage box and a window of gold shoes

0E5A8712Sara Lanzi space entitled “Black Carousel”

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0E5A8706‘Frances’ by Frances von Hofmannsthal. The installation is almost an exact replica of Frances’ father, Photographer Lord Snowden’s original studio and will host a series of special handmade coats

0E5A8648Labour and Wait

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0E5A8667Molly Goddard’s patchwork space featuring sculptures made by her father

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0E5A9096Vintage radiator rails housing labels like Toogood, Atlantique Ascoli and Casey Casey

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0E5A8698Egg space created by Jonathan Tuckey

Descending back down into the basement and Paul Smith’s reinterpretation of his first store in Nottingham instantly snares you in, with its array of Japanese toys, old issues of the Face and other collectibles, with a smattering of his men’s tailoring.  As with the Burberry installation, Paul Smith’s presence within DSM is unexpected but it works because of the singular concept.  Round the corner, you have your usual DSM basement residents – Good Design Shop, Undercover, IDEA – with larger spaces now alotted for Nike Lab, Craig Green and Gosha Rubchinsky.  A Child of Jago and Palace are the newcomers down in what is already a streetwear aficionado’s haven.

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0E5A8934Down in the basement, and new to DSM is the Paul Smith Space is built to resemble Paul’s first ever shop in opened in 1970 in Nottingham.  It features Japanese toys, magazines and vintage pieces. 

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0E5A8982Craig Green’s black tarpaulin monster fish

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0E5A9005IDEA’s excellent printed matter and selection of rare books

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0E5A8737A Child of the Jago

I went in on the Saturday after the friends and family launch, to take the rest of my photos and the word “market” had literally sprung into life.  The place was heaving.  From the queues for Gosha Rubchinsky’s limited edition Reeboks and Palace gear in the morning to curious peeps passing by throughout the day, the tills at DSM’s new location were constantly ringing, with even the press team having to help out serve customers.  The “beautiful chaos” of DSM, became even more beautiful when you saw life being breathed into the pieces on the rails – people browsing, trying and ultimately buying.  You want to hope that the initial buzz of the new location doesn’t dim and that being wedged in between the tourist hotspots of London will actually expose DSM to a whole new audience as well as retaining its core and devoted customer base.  Joffe and Kawakubo’s clarion call is clear.  To Haymarket we go!  Come (or should that be comme?), play and be curious!

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The bundled up wooly days of NYFW seems like an age away, especially now that I’ve just landed in sunny Seoul for Korea Fashion Week but as I’ve been working with Woolmark on highlighting all things wool at the shows for Merino.com, I also wanted to recap here what was an interesting contest between technique and tale in amongst the finalists, behind the scenes at the International Woolmark Prize Womenswear Final, held in New York in February.

The discussions in amongst jury panels at fashion competitions are always intriguing affairs.  I’ve participated in a few myself.  There’s nearly always an unfiltered conversation going on, where opinions are more forthright and honest, because the discussions tend to be conducted behind closed doors and when there’s a huge prize money at stake – in the case of Woolmark, AUD100,000 plus mentorship and the chance to be stocked at prestigious department stores like Harvey Nichols, Isetan and Saks Fifth Avenue – you get down to the nitty gritty pretty quickly.  With a judging panel that included the likes of Andre Leon Talley, Julie Gilhart, Tim Blanks and Stefano Tonchi, views were bound to be strong but what emerged at the Woolmark Prize was a common interest in the balance between an innovative technique in the use of Merino wool and a fascinating backstory behind the collection that could be communicated to consumer.  All the finalists had one or the other and one happened to have both.

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J Koo, from Korea, designed by Jinwoo Choi and Yeonjoo Koo marked high on technique.  Tim Blanks dubbed their collection to be made of “wenim” – as in woven wool made to look like denim.  After an exhaustive process of dyeing, bleaching, washing, rinsing and sand papering all done by hand, Choi and Koo came up with a fabrication that had the look of roughed up and frayed denim but with the tactile feel of soft wool.  It was a fabric hybridisation that I certainly hadn’t seen before and made me look forward to seeing what other fabric trickery the duo will come up with, as I’ll be at their show at this season’s Seoul Fashion Week.

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Bianca Spender hailing from Australia, where Merino wool is birthed, took inspiration from her native extreme surroundings – a landscape of cracked earth that has undergone flooding and droughts.  Contrasting fine wools and heavy micron wools in a neutral palette of earthy beige, grey and soft lilac, Spender’s pieces undulated around the body on the bias.  Her statement pieces came in the form of bonded wool coats and jackets that were stitched in three layers of wool and then slashed in to mimic trickles of water flowing through the ground.  This was where technique married up with the tale beautifully.

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I wasn’t familiar with Nanna van Blaaderen from the Netherlands, but of all the finalists, she was the only knitwear specialist and it showed in her tactile collection entitled “Hide”, intended to show the beauty of nature.  The stripes of a zebra, the spots of a giraffe and a leopard are rendered exclusively in innovative wool jacquard knits that showcase the sophisticated simplicity of the material.  Van Blaaderen doesn’t mask the wool with too much trickery or embellishment and instead, allows it to flourish in a naturalistic state.

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The collection that perhaps looked the least wooliest of all, was the one by Taller Marmo, the finalist from the India, Pakistan and Middle East region.  Based in Dubai and founded by Riccardo Audisio, from Italy and Yago Goicoechea, from Argentina, this thoroughly international brand is based on a conversation between the craftsmanship of Europe and their Middle Eastern surroundings .  And so they created a club-ready collection in wool, with touches of organza and lurex and inflected with Egyptian motifs taken from catacombs.  Taking advantage of the breathability of Merino wool as well as using waterproof treatments on wool, it was a clever use of wool for a very specific climate in their market.

 

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Tanya Taylor‘s collection perhaps needs no in-depth exposition, as she created a collection featuring jolly flowers segueing into bullseyes and optimistic stripes in the brightest of hues on easy-to-wear silhouettes that have made her print-centric collections so successful.  Again, aside from the chunky turbans and the thicker ribbed knits, there is was an unexpected summery lightness to Taylor’s collection, particularly the off-the-shoulder dresses.  When matched with Paul Andrews’ cute flats, Taylor’s love of an exuberant matchy-matchy look was infectious.

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Not to patriotically flag wave or anything, but it was brilliant to see a British brand be awarded the winner of this year’s International Woolmark Prize.  Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones of Teatum Jones thoroughly deserved it though as they managed to combine the ace technique with the compelling storytelling to create a collection that visually appealed and had some interesting layers beneath it all.

Seeing wool as an emancipating tool of freedom, Teatum Jones were inspired by English nun Agnes Morrogh-Bernard, who came to Foxford in County Mayo, Ireland and established the Foxford Woolen Mills in 1892.  Creating employment for an impoverished community, the mill went on to be a success, with its luxurious woolen blankets.  Teatum Jones went back to that mill to create folkloric blankets that would then inspire the rest of the 98% woolen collection.  Call it “Anglo-Navajo” (I believe that was another hybrid coined by Blanks), as geometric patterns were rendered in innovative materials.  Such as the guipere lace made out of wool, which was a first for the French mill they worked with.  This Merino lace was then bonded onto an Italian stretch wool that had the feel of neoprene, but with the breathability of wool.  As far as research and fabric techniques goes, Teatum Jones dived headfirst into the possibilities of Merino wool and emerged triumphant.  Mother Agnes saw wool as a tool of “empowerment”.  That certainly resonated in Teatum Jones’ winning collection and coupled with a forward thinking behind the fabrications, it definitely set a high benchmark for the Woolmark Prize missive.

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When you drive into Rome’s city centre from the Fiumicino airport, you’re likely to see the Palazzo della Cività Italiana, otherwise known as the ‘Square Colosseum’ looming large, with its cuboid facade of six by nine arches confronting you squarely.  As of late last year, this is where Fendi’s new headquarters are now based, housing over 500 employers.  Criticism over a global luxury brand taking over this seminal piece of Fascist architecture initiated by Benito Mussolini in 1935, quickly becomes moot when you’re faced with this structure of travertine marble, flanked by statues of Greek gods.  Especially when you come face to face with it, as I did last Thursday, when I took a quick jaunt to Rome, as an unexpected conclusion to fashion month.

I’ve been no stranger to Rome in the past year, having had the opportunity to come for extravagant shows staged by Valentino and Chanel.  Fendi will be doing the same come July when they show their haute fourrure collection, but their rooted ties to this city were really made apparent on this trip as they celebrated primarily the reopening of Palazzo Fendi, their former headquarters, which now comprises the largest Fendi Boutique, an in-house fur atelier, a private apartment for VIP customers and a new Fendi boutique hotel as well as a Zuma restaurant.  Roma is Fendi’s spiritual and physical casa and with the completion of the Palazzo and their new headquarters, that notion was made concrete… or technically speaking, made marble as various varieties of the Italian-sourced material was lavishly used everywhere we went.

My journey began with those ominous arches of Fendi’s new HQ, inside which is yet more expanse of marble and an exhibition of unrealised Italian futurist visions that curiously chime in aesthetically with Karl Lagerfeld’s recent collections for the house that play on incisive graphic lines and abstract depictions of architecture.  Peeking through Fendi’s offices, visual merchandising office and their hushed fur atelier (sadly no photographs were allowed here), the scale of everything certainly dwarfs any maisons that I’ve visited in Paris or Milan.  There’s an idiosyncrasy here that means houses like Fendi, Valentino and Gucci stand apart as they choose to base their operations out of a tradition-drenched city like Rome.  It’s why even up on this vast rooftop, overlooking the city of Rome and the mountains beyond, Fendi’s Roman soul thrives.

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0E5A7443Dan Thawley in Fendi menswear standing tall under the arches of the Palazzo della Civitá Italiana

That Roman experience becomes more intimate when you go into the city, right near the Spanish Steps, where Palazzo Fendi sits on a cross street between Via del Corso and Via Del Fontanella Borghese.  A short walk away, you get to admire the fruits of another one of Fendi’s restoration projects at the Trevi Fountain.  From monuments of dwarfing architecture and rationalist clean lines to Baroque classicism and then to contemporary art and eclectic interior design within the Palazzo, Fendi covers a lot of aesthetic ground with perhaps the linking thread being a projected idea of curated taste that naturally pervades over a Fendi handbag, a Casa Fendi cushion, a meal at Zuma or a stay at the Fendi Private Suites.

The centrepiece of the ground floor is undoubtedly the devastatingly beautiful red Lepanto marble staircase wrapping around a silver leaf enshrined glass elevator, backed with a bas relief sculpture of the Palazzo della Cività Italian.  These gestures of grandeur are juxtaposed with more tactile moments such as Fendi’s fur collages that adorn the walls, sitting next to their stable offering of pom pom and Karlito trinkets, as well as the Brazilian Campana brothers’ furniture creation entitled The Armchair of Thousand Eyes.

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Upstairs houses the women’s ready to wear as well as Fendi’s first in-store working fur atelier, where clients can customise bespoke made-to-order furs.  It’s a smaller functioning version of the atelier at Fendi’s new headquarters, complete with paper machetes of coats as well as a mesmerising handiwork of women hand stitching tough materials together, instructed by Lagerfeld’s sketches.  You can also personalise handbag styles with different leathers.  The atelier’s handiwork is on display in the shape of an electric blue bouquet wall art.

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0E5A7638>Big Growth Tablebronze table by artist Mathias Bengtsson

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image1Standing on a dream marble surface in a Toga dress, Mansur Gavriel clutch and Meadham Kirchhoff shoes in front of Analogia Project’s rendering of the Square Colosseum’s facade

On the side of the Palazzo Fendi, a discrete separate entrance leads you up to Zuma, where Rome peeps can deviate from carciofi and carbonara, and also to Fendi’s first hotel, comprising of seven private suites designed by architect Marco Constanzi.  Up on the third floor, a close-knit arrangement of rooms is framed by yet more of that deep green Favakir and red Lepanto marble, coffee table books and some seriously lush vintage furniture.  Lest you’re overwhelmed by all these beautifully conceived and highly tasteful interiors, you also have some lovely personal touches such as Moleskine notebooks, which you can personalise with funny Fendi rubber stamps and an animated guide to Rome with restaurant and sightseeing recommendations.  I happened to taste three of their reccies on my weekend away in Rome – all ridiculously delicious – not that you can go far wrong with Roman cuisine.

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0E5A7664Mr Lagerfeld hadn’t checked in yet as we got to snoop around his room first…

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The pièce de résistance perhaps is a part of the Palazzo that few will get to experience in person.  A ride up that central glass circular elevator, you arrive at the second floor.  What was once Fendi’s former headquarters and offices is now what they’re calling the Palazzo Privé designed by the acclaimed Dimore Studio based in Milan.  They nail an interior that is simultaneously intimate and impressive with their choice of vintage furniture, contemporary artwork and bespoke pieces.  The foundations of vaulted ceilings, huge windows and intricate stucco work are made distinguished by the unusual choice of pastel sage walls and conversation pieces like a metal framed bookcase with Cathedral glass that divides the living and dining areas or a vertical neon light fixture that criss crosses its way across the foyer.  In a cosy fitting room to the side, a shaved mink Fendi day bed coupled with a painted Art Deco screen, is the touch of humour that balances out with the spectacular interiors and well-judged taste level.  This Privé haven will be reserved for the use of VIP clients and friends of the house.

That Fendi is a fashion house from Rome is common knowledge.  With the reopening of the multi-pronged Palazzo Fendi, combined with their imposing headquarters looming over the city, those hometown ties become even more pronounced.  All of Fendi’s roads do indeed lead to Rome.

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