Fortuny owners plan to develop legendary brand – WWD

VENICE – “The world doesn’t need more things, it needs more beauty,” according to Mickey Riad, Creative Director of Fortuny.

The young artist and photographer, who owns the legendary brand with his brother and managing director Maury, is spearheading Fortuny’s development, and on Thursday he introduced the label’s new artistic director – architect Alberto Torsello, who designed the plan of the new showroom, which was unveiled that day.

Mariano Fortuny has revolutionized the worlds of textiles, fashion and theater, said Riad, and he believes the brand represents “the art of living and that it is too narrow to consider just one aspect of it. heritage. With Alberto, we want to express the values ​​of the company but we must prioritize and not try to do everything at the same time, but what makes the most sense.

The showroom is located on the island of Giudecca in the multi-storey building that also houses the factory created by the Spanish artist, set designer and inventor Mariano Fortuny in 1922. The manufacturing plant is still active and producing around 25,000 meters of fabric per year – deemed suitable by Torsello for the brand’s artisanal and luxury positioning.

Torsello, who received the prestigious Compasso d’oro design award in 2018, has restored famous buildings such as the Palazzo Ducale, il Fondaco dei Tedeschi and the Scuola Grande della Misericordia in Venice.

The Riad brothers have been running the business since 1998, when they inherited it from their father Maged. The latter had bought it from Elsie McNeill Lee, the interior designer Mariano Fortuny had appointed as his sole representative in the United States.

The Riads have been busy bolstering the business for its next chapter. “Fortuny deserves to be here forever, to reflect the importance of the artist who revolutionized the world of fabrics, textiles, lighting and theater. His remarkable contributions have touched the world, people know his influence even if they don’t know him, ”said Mickey Riad.

Inside the Fortuny showroom.
Photo: Colin Dutton

Riad said he plans to develop a clothing collection, “hopefully next year.” He admitted he was “very interested in fashion” and pointed out how Fortuny had “a voice” and “created timeless clothes” that are still modern today.

Riad is based in New York, where he owns the Fortuny Archives, but spends six months a year in Venice. He said that in 2018 he produced prints for Rick Owens, who also lives in Venice and often cited Mariano Fortuny as an influence. Fortuny’s first printed fabric dates from 1922, so it will mark its centenary next year.

Laughing, Riad didn’t deny the challenges Venice posed in terms of costs and practical operations, but pointed to the influence of the city’s arts and culture, “where East and West meet”.

Torsello shares this love for Venice, said Riad, praising the architect’s attention to detail and “the way he looks at the world.” Everything has a meaning and a purpose. Indeed, in creating the showroom, Torsello opted for a space “functional and not just decorative”, explained the Venetian architect, while adding a “theatrical element with fabrics drawn from the ceiling like stage curtains and s’ opening like a flower, giving an entirely new atmosphere to the room.

Oak columns and magnesite floors, a majestic wooden staircase and a pillow library are some of the distinctive elements of the exhibition hall, in the red brick building which surrounds a beautiful and unexpected garden.


The garden of the headquarters of Fortuny.
courtesy image

The fabrics are made entirely of cotton using secret techniques and using the same original machines invented by Mariano Fortuny. The colors are created with the formulas invented by his wife Henriette Negrin with natural materials, plant and insect extracts, resulting for example in the unique Fortuny green. The patterns of the fabrics are inspired by the light and reflections of the Venetian lagoon.

The company does not work from stock, the fabrics must be ordered and are delivered in about three months, between 300 and 450 euros per meter. Appointments to visit the exhibition hall must be booked in advance.

The United States is Fortuny’s largest market, accounting for 70 percent of business, with Europe accounting for the remaining 30 percent. Riad attributed the development of the American market to McNeill Lee, “bringing Fortuny out of churches and museums and into homes, selling not only by commission but also by the meter.”

Torsello said he also wanted to help the Riad “to be associated with the artistic journey of Fortuny, to create humanistic and scientific content”, and to work with the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim and Fortuny museums and other educational institutions. , creating relationships with the city and stimulating the culture of exchange. “It’s a craft activity, not an industrial one,” he said. At the same time, he said, “we are identifying new products that would be in line with the identity of the brand, such as accessories for the home or the person, but we are also considering collaborations with artists” .

Riad and Torsello said the lockdowns sparked interest in interior design and predicted a return to more opulent, layered and textured styles in Europe, “something that has never gone away in the US and UK. United”.

“These are not inanimate fabrics, putting soul into intangible objects and bringing them to life is real luxury,” said Riad.


The Fortuny pillow wall.
Photo: Colin Dutton

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