This article is part of a guide to Rome from FT Globetrotter
Since, well, forever, Rome, the Eternal City, has been home to craftspeople who make beautiful, sought-after things. Its expertise in creating elaborate jewellery and fashionable clothing can be traced back to the days of the empire.
In the 20th century, an exalted handful of artisans — stars such as Valentino Garavani, Elsa Schiaparelli and the five Fendi sisters — also made, and maintained, Rome’s status as a capital of international style.
But real Roman retail lies largely beyond big-name fashion. The best of the bunch tend to be the small, independent shopfronts and ateliers offering handmade collectibles that you won’t find on Mount Street or Madison Avenue. Rather conveniently, many of Rome’s finest such purveyors are on, or within easy striking distance of, one of two centro storico arteries that have recently emerged as epicentres of one-off style: the Via di Monserrato and the Via dell’Oca. Below is my list of go-to shops and designers for fashion and accessories — the one I share with visiting friends who are keen to head home with a sui generis Roman treasure or two. (And for those who will miss the Italian capital in person this year — all ship internationally too.)
Soledad Twombly makes one of the city’s more dazzling style statements at L’Archivio di Monserrato. There is a smattering of glass- and tableware, woven and leather totes and clutches, kimonos and suzanis (large, hand-embroidered textiles), and the odd pair of vintage Manolos in pristine condition. But it’s Twombly’s own fashion designs — evoking elements of Hermès and Stella McCartney, but via richer tones — that pack the most punch. Fine silks and wools take the shape of classic trousers and fitted blouses, capes and sweeping midi-length coats.
In 2017, husband and wife Gerardo Cavaliere and Margherita Cardelli launched Giuliva Heritage, a men’s and women’s line born of Cavaliere’s original Neapolitan tailoring business, Sartoria Giuliva. They are all about classic fits, ultrafine textiles and careful detailing; the vibe, for men and women alike, is “I inherited this blazer/trench/pair of summer wool trousers from my aristo uncle”. There’s something deliciously 1980s Ralph Lauren about it all (with — caveat emptor — Purple Label prices).
Founded by Cristina Bomba and now run by her children Caterina Nelli and Michele Am Russo, Atelier Bomba has been quietly making impeccably tailored separates from meticulously sourced vintage fabrics for 40 years — a neat nod to both an elegant aesthetic and an interest in sustainability. All are crafted on site in an old-world, drawer-lined shop, with many now collector’s items among a cohort of stylish women and men worldwide.
At the other end of the aesthetics spectrum is cult Roman brand Roi du Lac, founded in 2016. The flamboyant silk prints designed by Scots-Italian proprietors Marco Kinloch and Antea Brugnoni Alliata (replete with colours and menagerie motifs that make Gucci’s Alessandro Michele look tame) are shaped into pussy-bow or scarf-neck blouses and dresses for women, dress shirts, bowling shirts and pocket squares for men, and natty slacks and trousers for both sexes.
In 2017, Lebanese designer Gilbert Halaby opened Maison Halaby on the Via di Monserrato. Beyond his beautiful clutches and totes — all made to order by leather artisans in Parma and favoured by princesses of the Hollywood, Park Avenue and titled varieties — he sells one-off jewels and watercolours, a small collection of silk foulards bearing his drawn designs, and vintage treasures such as wind-up clocks and crystal perfume dispensers sourced across Italy and beyond. Most days he can be found reading philosophy and listening to Chopin between salon-like client visits.
Patrizia Fabri is a milliner’s milliner, as opposed to a fashion designer who does hats on the side. Much of her stock is fashioned from pristine lots of vintage woven straw she has acquired over the years; the designs themselves range from Jacquemus-esque attention getters — think brims that spill over shoulders and wildly coloured bands of grosgrain — to sleek unisex coal-grey and sable-brown felt fedoras. (My adornment-free, wide-brimmed Panama elicited at least half a dozen “Where did you get that?”s over the summer.)
It’s safe to say that when Andrea Ferolla and Daria Reina (authors of Assouline’s runaway-success tome Italian Chic) opened Chez Dede in 2015, they altered the retail landscape of the city. The large boutique — a double shopfront on the Via di Monserrato — is a singular hybrid of Italian, French and international references and influences, but with an unmistakably Roman core. Ferolla made his bones as a fashion illustrator and Reina as a creative director, so they know beautiful things and quality artisanship. Here they curate a very select edit of designers and makers who hail from as far afield as Paris (Astier de Villatte), New York (John Derian) and Japan (Camoshita).
But you should come for the trove of glorious things signed Chez Dede: the canvas and leather bags and totes, which have achieved major cult status across multiple time zones; the silk and cashmere scarves printed with Ferolla’s illustrations (the ruins of Villa Pamphili, or a déshabillée young miss leaning out a window); the notebooks, the clutches, the tiny table lamps with hand-painted shades, and more. And Reina’s limited-edition womenswear — cotton blouses and smocks, capes, long wrap skirts — is pure elegance.
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