As the recession hit, Italy’s government found that they couldn’t afford to pay for restoration and upkeep of some of their most prized monuments. It was a conundrum because these sights also bring in lucrative tourists. In an unprecedented move, the fashion industry stepped up.
The list of designers hailing from Italy is endless, and Italians are proud of their country. That’s why it shouldn’t be so surprising that these labels – which have millions of dollars in revenue every year – took on these projects. However, it was a novel idea.
Back in 2011, Tod’s CEO Diego Della Valle coughed up €25 million ($32 million) to restore the Colosseum, arguably Rome‘s (and Italy’s) most prominent tourist site. A three-year long cleaning and stabilization made up phase one, which was completed July 2016. Phase two consists of a restoration of the underground chambers and a new cafeteria and courtyard. Della Valle told Architectural Digest, “Besides it being an important economic resource for us, we have the duty to protect this heritage for everyone.”
However, aside from Della Valle and Tod’s historical and cultural contribution, arguably the biggest impact has been the domino effect. Since Tod’s support of the restoration of the Colosseum, no less than four other Italian labels have undertaken the financial support of cultural restorations. Diesel has paid to restore Rialto Bridge in Venice; Prada paid for the restoration of Ca’ Corner Della Regina, Venice; Bulgari spruced up the Spanish Steps and is currently restoring the Baths of Caracalla, both in Rome; and, Fendi paid for the restoration of the Trevi Fountain.
The brands behind these conservations admittedly receive a big benefit. By funding these projects, they are given exclusive rights to advertise while the restorations are in progress (and sometimes, even after). Famously, Fendi staged their 90th-anniversary couture show literally on the Trevi Fountain. Having the exclusive opportunity to stage a fashion show on one of the most iconic sights in the world? The sight of romantic movie scenes such as Anita Ekberg bathing in it at midnight in La Dolce Vita or Lizzie McGuire being mistaken for a pop star in The Lizzie McGuire Movie? Well worth the €2.5 million ($3.2 million).
And while there’s no denying the PR and marketing opportunity, we like to see the best in people. We choose to believe that the main impetus behind this trend is a desire to preserve Italian history and art – a history and art that has influenced the world for thousands of years. Because that’s a trend we can get behind.