Two of the pillars upon which our business rests are luxury and Venice. So it is fitting that we bring you first impressions of the new luxury department store that opened to the public in Venice this week. Last week were the press evenings, the VIP evenings with acrobats tumbling down the walls…
It is the first European retail space to be created by the LMVH-owned luxury brand, DFS. Why Venice? Well partly because they felt that “…there isn’t one place where you can go to find a succinct, well-curated shopping experience”.
But it must also be because of the astonishing building that has been made available to them, after which the shop is named, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the Grand canal, next to the Rialto bridge:
A key component of what is probably the most important cityscape in the world, it is also amazing inside:
Needless to say, there was a huge hoo-hah when it was announced that it would be turned into a shop but, given how well it has been done (the architects were OMA and Rem Koolhaas) it is difficult to imagine a better outcome. The building has had a troubled history. Having fallen into disrepair after the fall of the Republic, it was subject, as were so many Venetian buildings in the nineteenth century, to repair work that “restored” it what it was imagined it would have been like, “…an episode typical of much more directionless, pointless, careless and uncaring handling of Venice’s fabric.” (Gianfranco Pertot in Venice Extraordinary Maintenance)
Radically restored in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was turned into Venice’s central post office, a cage of reinforced concrete was installed within it that is irreversible and which exacerbated the movement of the remaining parts of the structure.
When the post office moved out, the only interested buyers of the building were hotel consortia, so it was acquired by the comune.
So what is it like as a shop? Well, the upper floors focus on clothing, beauty and accessories (jewellery, watches). Though well curated and displayed, the brands are the same as in any other luxury retail environment:
However, make no mistake, it will become an essential, unmissable destination for anybody visiting Venice, because of that extraordinary central cortile:
but also for souvenirs. Yes!
Since the Venice experience is so damaged by the sale everywhere of cheap imported souvenirs, DFS took the decision to provide really good souvenirs, that are made in Venice and Italy.
These include food, wine, chocolates…and gondolier outfits, shown here in a picture in which you can see one of the red escalators, and the unfinished walls typical of the restoration:
But maybe the very best reason to go is for the platform on the roof from which there are most spectacular views over Venice – the Grand canal, the domes of St Mark’s. From here, Venice looks beautiful – you see the place, not the people. The original plan was to create a large terrace with two open sides but, disappointingly, that was vetoed. So, instead, there is a small wooden deck that so is popular you have to queue to get on it. But, whatever else you do, do queue! it is worth it (see my picture at the top of this post).