I’ve know Gwenael Nicolas for years, and in 2011 he was also one of the ‘Interni architects’ in our FuoriSalone in Milan, with a beautiful installation of light (Suspended Colors with Deborah Milano): a sort of light, magically floating dome inside the 15th-century Cortile dei Bagni of Ca’ Granda, now the State University complex. The mixture of past and future has always been a trademark in Nicolas’s projects, as can be seen in the design of the Fendi Boutique recently opened in Rome. Which is where we met for this interview.

You went to live and work in Tokyo ‘to discover the future’ and then you returned to Europe to build in Rome, the Eternal City. What was that like? And, above all, how much does the theme of Roman identity count in the design of the new Fendi Boutique?
Yes, it’s true, Tokyo has become my city, but of course I work wherever they ask me to: Paris, London, Milan… and today here in Rome. This was a double challenge: to put Fendi back into its historical headquarters, and to help Romans discover the extraordinary beauty of their city. Fendi not only has roots in Rome, it also shares the city’s eclectic nature, made of contrasts.
It is impossible to describe Rome with just one adjective: it is a strong, rugged city, but at the same time it is light, full of atmosphere and charm. The same goes for Fendi, always in the avant-garde, with an eye on the future, but also linked to the tradition due to the innate passion for craftsmanship found in all its products.
Let’s say that be reopening the spaces of its historic location, right in the heart of Rome, Fendi wants to give Romans a chance to look to the future, which is there, waiting for us.

How does your project make us look to the future?
By making Rome ‘move.’ Everything in the Eternal City seems so immobile: columns, statues, steps, walls, friezes, everything is ‘frozen’ in the past. In the design for the Fendi Boutique, on the other hand, the notions of time and movement become the keys to transform the interiors into a sort of ‘mutant’ architecture.
Take the large staircase leading to the first floor: we immediately think of an inanimate object, a static element, but it is actually alive, it is a stone ‘in motion,’ a red ribbon (made in Lepanto marble, ed.) that flows through the travertine walls. In short, it is like taking a deep breath… because I wanted people to have a sensation of lightness in the Palazzo. Thanks to light, airy spaces, fresh materials that link past and present…

It must not have been easy to come to grips with a building from the 1600s…
It was definitely an opportunity. When you come to terms with a masterpiece from the past, from my viewpoint, two things have to be done: you have to respect it, and at the same time you have to be irreverent. Of course when you enter a historical building and look around to see how the spaces are organized, the materials, the details, the finishes, you are immediately amazed, captured by their beauty.
But that doesn’t mean you should leave everything just as it was. You have to take risks! I wanted to break up the schemes, enlarging spaces, opening them up, changing them and reconstructing them to reveal their spirit and to free up energy, life and beauty.

Speaking of beauty, what is your ideal?
I am convinced that a universal concept of beauty does exist. In all the countries where I have worked, from Japan to France to Italy, I have always found a red thread of what can be called beauty. For example, do you see that nice seascape in the painting over there? An Italian would immediately think of Venice, but that is actually a Japanese landscape painted in Tokyo 200 years ago! This demonstrates that certain shared aesthetic references do exist.
When you are able to identify them, you can achieve an ambitious objective: to bring together even very different cultures, to create spaces and objects the whole world can appreciate and understand. The challenge of a designer, then, is to discover something beautiful and manage to communicate it to the world. If you can do that, you can make your vision of beauty understood, which for me – so we are back to your first question – is constant surprise.

So you wanted to surprise us with your boutique here in Palazzo Fendi?
Of course. I love designing boutiques because you always have to gaze into the future, and above all imagine the future. In these projects architecture has to interpret a reality in a state of becoming, and the imagination has to be able to range well beyond the present, or just the near future

You’ve done boutiques in Europe and overseas, especially in the Orient. Are there differences?
Many. In Europe you always have to work on two parallel histories that travel at different speeds: that of the past, important and glorious like that of Rome, for example, and then the present history, which runs fast. In Asia, on the other hand, the only history you have to deal with is the quick one. This intrigues me very much.

Is this why you have called your Tokyo-based studio ‘Curiosity’?

Well I too am rather curious: what is your next project?
A perfume. And a new boutique, of course, this time in Milan.

Interview with Gilda Bojardi – Edited by Laura Ragazzola – Photos by Gionata Xerra


Pietro Beccari: fashion + art+ design

The president and CEO of Fendi narrates the main passions of the historic Roman maison in an exclusive interview for Interni. Taking ‘l’alta moda’ into some of the most remarkable gems of Italian architecture, balanced between tradition and modernity
I meet Pietro Beccari for the second time: after Milan, at the opening of the new Fendi showroom in the spaces formerly of Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, the second appointment is in Rome for the opening of the largest Fendi Boutique in the world, near the steps of Trinità dei Monti.

What is most striking about these Fendi initiatives is that they all have to do with symbolic places in the history of Italian culture: from the former Riva & Calzoni steel mills which the renowned artist Arnaldo Pomodoro transformed into an exhibition space, to the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in the EUR district in Rome, a gem of 1930s architecture, now the new headquarters of the company, all the way to the restoration of Palazzo Fendi, in the heart of Rome. What is the red thread connecting these projects?
Italian excellence and savoir faire: these are the values that go into our sense of aesthetics and beauty. Which is never monolithic, but always takes on different forms. A bit like music, where people can love a wide range of different genres. We have made this diversity visible on the five levels of our historic location at Palazzo Fendi, in the heart of Rome.
The building has been completely renovated, and now hosts the new Boutique with the first fur atelier ‘made to order’; the Palazzo Privé, a luxurious apartment to receive our most important clients; the Fendi Private Suites, our first boutique hotel with seven suites; and the Zuma international Japanese restaurant, the first in Italy after the other locations in Europe and the world, on the upper level with a panoramic terrace. Each floor has been assigned to a different designer. The interiors all have different, distinct personalities, immediately conveying a precise, very personal vision of luxury and beauty.

What is your idea of beauty? I have asked the architect Nicolas the same question…
Ever since I began working with a luxury brand, my aesthetic sense has changed, somewhat. Just consider the fact that every day I share ideas and projects with two ‘masterminds of beauty’ like Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi, an extraordinary way of enriching my professional and life experience. Personally I like clean, sober, refined lines, a very Italian style: the design of the 1950s and 1960s, for example, Arte Povera, Burri, Fontana…

And what is your idea of luxury?
I’ll tell you a story. When Bernard Arnault hired me at Louis Vuitton he said: “Go visit all the boutiques: if you sense something here, in your gut, then come back here. Otherwise don’t bother.” Well, I’ve been here for over ten years… which is another way of saying that in our stores we want to trigger emotion: something that goes well beyond rationality, when you fall in love with a beautiful dress, a precious fur, a handbag that speaks of an antique, unique art like that of Fendi. For me, luxury is associated with that kind of emotion.

The focus on beauty can also be seen in Fendi’s increasingly close relationship with the world of art. I am thinking about the restoration of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, of Palazzo EUR, empty and abandoned for over 70 years…
The relationship between Fendi and art has distant origins, and in this area design has had an important role. Fendi Casa was born in 1987, almost thirty years ago: already, at the time, the Fendi sisters were very involved in the world of the home, exploring new forms, also in collaboration with the world of design. We aim at people who do not just want to buy a product, but want to share values, a precise sense of beauty. And Fendi is able to transmit this aesthetic dimension. And wants to do it through real, concrete places…

…most of which are in Rome.
Of course. Because our Roman identity, our link to the capital, is an essential factor. So much so that we have added the word Roma to our logo: today it says “Fendi Roma.” After all, our brand was born here, in the most beautiful city in the world for its history and its art, which are truly unique. We can say that we have created what is called, in nature, a symbiotic relationship with Rome: we are useful to the city, but Rome is also certainly useful to us, to our brand.
Because it brings out the ability to make people dream, to connect with beauty, the taste of the Italian lifestyle. In short, the link with Rome is beneficial, vital, strategic, and our patronage should be seen in this sense: we believe it is positive to give back to the city what the city gives us every day in terms of beauty, inspiration, ideas.

Since your arrival in Fendi the perception has been reinforced of a brand oriented towards a more refined and international type of elegance. But how are made in Italy and internationalization, tradition and modernity connected?
First of all, let’s say that Fendi wants to put the accent on its origins because it is there, in its historical DNA, that its innovate force is concentrated, making the brand a unique presence in the world. A force that is expressed in the maison’s capacity to combine luxury craftsmanship, the amazing skills of artisans, with a sense of fun, surprise, that goes beyond national borders and makes Fendi truly special. Look, in 1965, when he began to work with Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld transformed heavy middle-class furs into fashion objects: he colored them, cut them, trimmed them; in short, he had lots of fun and knew how to amuse and to astonish. That is the moment in which Fendi was born, at least as I see it today: a luxury brand, the result of refined craftsmanship, but with international scope, which never gives up on a good dose of fun in its creations.

Interview with Gilda Bojardi – Edited by Laura Ragazzola – Photos by Gionata Xerra

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The impressive staircase in Lepanto marble rises between travertine walls to the first floor of the boutique.
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The elegant 17th-century facade of Palazzo Fendi.
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The ground floor of the boutique contains the sculpture Moon by the Swiss artist Not Vital.
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The area for women’s accessories, and the menswear space in the background.
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The ‘Fur Tablets’ from the Fendi historical archives: at the entrance to the boutique they become an iconic decor motif that stands out against the travertine walls.
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The ‘made to order’ Fur Atelier, the first of its kind in the world, where clients can watch Fendi craftspeople making the furs they have ordered.
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The space set aside for watches, presented like jewelry in special glass niches.
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Portrait of Pietro Beccari.
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On the travertine wall, almost by magic, a bas relief appears, inspired by Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, the new headquarters of Fendi in the EUR district of Rome: a creation of the art duo Analogia Project.