For years, numerous luxury fashion brands have invested millions into the preservation of cultural heritage sites like the Trevi Fountain, Boboli Gardens, and Grand Palais.
Many may think that luxury brands only serve the rich or one percent. This may be true in terms of target demographic, but a great deal of fashion houses are changing the stereotype through meaningful cultural preservation and restoration projects.
To clarify, such endeavors don’t come purely from a self-serving position. Yes, these preservation efforts are meant to leave a positive legacy for the brands and contribute to the upkeep of historical spots that serve as venues for their projects (like runway shows). However, for the most part, these brands have created foundations and initiatives from a place of wanting to spark genuinely positive change. In fact, companies like Cartier, Messika, and De Beers have quietly created organizations to aid in charity work across the globe, without much intention of advertising such efforts, as per Financial Times.
A Helping Hand
Regardless of intentions, luxury brands’ overall investment in cultural preservation is advantageous, especially when state funds and initiatives are limited. This is particularly true for Italy, which holds the world record of assets classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, according to NSS Magazine. Unfortunately, funds for heritage protection and enhancement can’t keep up with the number of sites that require maintenance.
“Our government is not able to face all the never-ending campaigns of renovation, restoration and promotion of our endless artistic legacy,” shared Toto Bergamo Rossi, director of Venetian Heritage, with Financial Times.
Below are NUMBER particular brands that have been the most active participants in the preservation of significant cultural sites:
Alda Fendi Foundation, helmed by luxury Italian brand Fendi, has been hard at work in restoring and maintaining significant structures around Rome. It invested 2.2 million euros to repair the Trevi Fountain, which reopened in 2015 and was the site of the brand’s 90th-anniversary couture show, as per the South China Morning Post.
The foundation also collaborated with the Experiments and the Superintendence of Rome in repairing the majestic Arco di Giano [Arch of Janus] in 2017. Prior to this, a 1993 explosion had badly damaged the historic building, according to NSS Magazine. Acclaimed French architect Jean Nouvel oversaw its restoration.
Prada Group’s philanthropic efforts include the 2013 renovation of the Palais d’Iéna in Paris, which serves as a cultural events center for various activities.
The group’s initiatives also extend far beyond the scope of Europe, as it notably refurbished the historic Rong Zhai mansion in Shanghai, China.
The affluent Yung Tsoong-king family owned the abode 100 years ago, and had it designed to look like a Western-style garden villa, as per the South China Morning Post. The renovated mansion highlights this mix of cultures and embodies the fashion house’s continued fascination with Chinese aesthetic sensibilities.
Chanel pledged €25 million for the restoration of the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, as per The Glass Magazine. The site is not only historic, but also a museum and exhibition hall. The brand hopes to complete the project in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The location also shares a deep connection with the brand, as it’s been the site of its runway shows for decades, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy, are what many consider to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It’s filled with ancient statues and Renaissance sculptures surrounded by lush foliage—a layout designed by none other than the wealthy and influential Medici family.
In April 2017, The Florentine announced the three-year restoration of the green space, which was supported by Gucci and Italy’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The Italian fashion brand invested €2 million for preserving “the gardens’ unique aesthetic, comprising sculpture, architecture, intricate landscaping and plants dating back to the 16th century.”
In 2018, Gucci held their Cruise 2018 show within the walls of the Pitti Palace, which houses the vibrant gardens, in order to showcase the historic location’s reinvigorated state.
In 2016, Bulgari unveiled the newly-restored Spanish Steps—an iconic attraction that connects the Trinità dei Monti church with the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. The entire project took two years to complete, but it was well worth the effort. The brand donated €1.5 million to finance the project, which resulted in 138 gleaming steps that were ready for the public to enjoy and admire.
To top it all off, Bulgari invited 30 randomly chosen Roman citizens to enjoy the inaugural “Piazza di Spagna” evening, including prisoners who had worked on the project as part of their rehabilitation program.
The brand also funded the restoration of polychrome floor mosaics in the Baths of Caracalla in 2015 and 2016, a particularly significant project given how visitors weren’t able to see the site for more than 40 years.
Banner and feature photo from Prada Group website.