Rome is carved into the DNA of rock-solid style supremo Fendi. Now the label’s coolly opulent new hotel has raised the city into the top rank of fashion.
From the 1660s until the end of the 19th century, it was customary for young English noblemen to undertake a Grand Tour of Europe, a kind of gap year avant la letter, a crash course in classicism, a shortcut to sophistication. It was also a very good way to flash a bit of cash and meet girls. Naturally ROME, home to the PANTHEON and ST PETER’S, was inked on to every itinerary.
Today, the intercontinental aristocracy of means (fewer marquises, more moneyed Muscovites) still embark on a Grand Tour of sorts, but no one’s got their nose in the Compleat Gentleman. Now the reference is the Sartorialist app, making the editor Scott Schuman a kind of contemporary Cicerone, I suppose, and the commissions go to Chaumet not Canaletto. Unsurprisingly, the route is also radically different. Herculaneum’s had its day. The current pilgrimage circuits the capitals of style: New York, Milan, Paris and London.
For one reason or another, Rome hasn’t yet guaranteed itself a place on this Grand Tour 2.0, despite being home to a number of fashion houses of the first rank, including Valentino, Bulgari and, of course, Fendi. That is all about to change, however, with the arrival of FENDI PRIVATE SUITES, which sits above the brand’s recently reopened flagship store in the smart TRIDENTE neighbourhood.
All geometric grids and sensual fabrics, the seven-bedroom hotel is a neat extension of Fendi’s take on luxury: everything is understatedly elegant, historically aware and ferociously expensive. Frequent Fendi collaborator, architect Marco Costanzi, is the man responsible, and hasn’t he done well. Marble abounds, but never overwhelms. The sharp lines are softened with a cool palette of stone greys, muted mauves and velvety blues. The lovely furniture from the brand’s interiors wing, Fendi Casa, has been artfully offset by statement pieces, including Hans J Wenger chairs and vases by Pia Wustenberg. The individual touches represent serious opulence with a local accent: walk-in showers in dramatic rosso lepanto marble; unique fur artworks above each bed; photographs of the city by Karl Lagerfeld, creative director at the company and in its employ since 1965.
This Hotel is a neat extension of Fendi’s take on luxury: Eveything is understatedly elegant, historically aware & ferociously expensive
The brand was founded not far from here, on VIA DEL PLEBISCITO, in 1925 by Edorado and Adele Fendi, and took off after World War II when their five fabulous daughters – Paola, Franca, Carla and Alda – took the helm, transforming it into Italian fashion’s pre-eminent matriarchy and southern powerhouse. Fiery, formidable and cannily creative, the sisters grew the business steadily before selling it in stages to designer behemoth LVMH, which retains a connection to the family with Anna’s daughter Silvia Venturini Fendi ensconced as one of its creative directors. The house is now a global player – in no small part due to Silvia’s Baguette, which kickstarted the It-bag craze in the late 1990s – and serves up a complete style service, including a fur atelier, all of which is on offer in the dramatic store beneath the suites.
This coupling of rooms and retail is a wonderful example of the stay-and-shop phenomenon: Versace has a pair of characteristically maximalist hotels on the Australian Gold Coast and in Dubai, and there are Armani- branded residences in Dubai and Milan. The trend has seen Diane von Furstenberg design suites at Claridge’s and Ralph Lauren revamp Round Hill in Jamaica. The use of Fendi Casa furniture, much of which is available to buy, has echoes, too, of the craze for using hotel rooms as shopfloors, as typified by Bea, the designer B&B in Knokke-le Zoute, Belgium, where everything is for sale.
Fendi, I suspect, might one day look to expand its hotel portofolio – the aesthetic of the place has the quality of a blueprint – but at the moment the company seems happy to concentrate on Rome, where it has helped pay for the restoration of the Trevi Fountain and invested millions in transforming the Fascist-era Palazzo della Civilta Italiana into its corporate headquarters. The Private Suites are housed in Palazzo Fendi, once home to the wealthy Boncompagni family, whose elevation to nobility was assured when one of their number became Pope in 1572. The rejuvenation of the building takes its place in the wider fashion-led revitalisation of the city. As part of this, Tod’s has financed conservation work at the Colosseum and Bulgari has funded a clean-up of the Spanish Steps.
All told, Fendi’s Private Suites make a sumptuous addition to the city’s hotel scene, and in a location that could hardly be bettered. Stick your head out of the window of Suite One and you can gaze up via Condotti, strain a little further to see the Spanish Steps and nearby Babington’s Tea Rooms, for so long a refuge for exiled aristos yearning for the little traditions of English life. Today’s Grand Tourers aren’t likely to be jonesing for a cuppa, but with Fendi Private Suites and its new Zuma restaurant they may just have found a compellingly good reason to put Rome at the top of their list.