What is the story behind T Fondaco dei Tedeschi? Tell us more about the concept.
T Fondaco dei Tedeschi is “a destination within a destination” – where the best international, Italian and local brands exist together under one roof, and where the building itself stands alone as a must-see item on any traveler’s itinerary.
Located on the Grand Canal, a few steps away from the famous Rialto Bridge and within walking distance from St Mark’s Square, the new store occupies one of the city’s most venerated buildings, the 800-year old Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which began its life as a place of exchange for northern merchants and was used for centuries to trade spices, silk and other goods between the Orient and Europe.
The renovation of the building was entrusted to the eminent architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas who, with his architectural firm OMA, has meticulously restored and transformed it into a grand trading emporium spanning four stories. Inside, a sumptuous interior design by architect Jamie Fobert celebrates the traditional elements, textures and shapes of Venice to produce a truly spectacular store bridging tradition and modernity.
What motivated the choice of Venice?
We wanted to offer our customers an experience that reflects the very best of authentic Italian luxury and hospitality, and Venice was an obvious choice. For centuries, Venice has been a commercial hub and one of the most important trade routes of the world. Fondaco dei Tedeschi once played an important role as a trading house for Northern European merchants and the rest of the world and we strive to continue to reflect Venice’s long heritage of Italian arts and craftsmanship in our product offerings.
Many international luxury department stores have been undergoing challenging times. What are the competitive advantages of your project?
T Fondaco dei Tedeschi offers an exceptional collection of the most desired luxury products from Italian and international brands across 7,000 square meters of retail space. In addition, the store provides a cultural hub for the city of Venice, promoting events and exhibitions that complement the city’s annual calendar of activities including the Carnival of Venice festival and Venice Glass Week to name a few.
Our buying team spends a lot of time in the markets in Europe and constantly keeps up with what the new generation are looking at in stores, on social media, across markets. The fashion cycle is moving faster and faster and we strive to offer trending items to meet the extremely high expectations of customers who want to purchase what they see from influencers and celebrities. We also regularly rotate new brand pop-ups to keep engagement levels high.
The present fashion offer has been inspired by the Italian artisanal savoir faire. One of the examples is the women shoes area, one of the most beautiful and complete luxury shoe salons in Europe. It was a natural homage, located in Venice that is at the end of the Brenta river area, where a large part of the history of luxury shoes has been written. Since the opening of the store, we have welcomed many brands to the store and this number increases with each season.
How did you opt for the brand mix?
We offer a mix of both Italian and international brands in the categories of fashion and accessories, watches and jewelry, wines and spirits, and beauty and fragrances, alongside a carefully curated selection of locally handcrafted artisan products and premium food.
Through our Fashion offer, we create a sense of place with a distortedly generous selection of the best of Italian fashion, from powerhouse global names such as Fendi, Gucci, and Valentino, to Venetian shoemakers Rene Caovilla and Golden Goose. When you think of footwear, “Made in Italy” is synonymous with style and innovation and it was important to have a large footwear selection comprised of leaders such as Gianvito Rossi, Aquazzurra, to Giuseppe Zanotti.
What is the profile of your customer?
Since our opening in 2016, we have seen that among all the different nationalities that shop at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, they share a common attitude and approach – they are all curious and enthusiastic explorers of our fashion offer. Perhaps it’s part of being in Italy – the Italian lifestyle inspires a willingness to take one’s time, and indulge in a discovery of the senses!
To what extent T Fondaco dei Tedeschi relates to lifestyle?
In T Fondaco the customers may really live a holistic experience, made of luxury shopping, a wide selection of high-end local craftsmanship, history, architecture, the awesome beauty of the view from the terrace. Moreover, to complete the experience, in T Fondaco they may find AMO, a cutting-edge restaurant and coffee shop handled by the three Michelin stars chef Massimiliano Alajmo.
You announced a series of events, can you talk about some of them?
The fourth floor of T Fondaco hosts the Event Pavilion where we organize, on a weekly basis, a program of cultural events in partnership with authoritative Venetian cultural institutions like the Ca’ Foscari University, the Querini Stampalia Foundation, the Goldoni Theater, Veneto Jazz. The store provides a cultural hub for the city of Venice, promoting events and exhibitions that complement the city’s annual calendar of activities. We host concerts, book signings, performances, conferences that are free both to local citizens and visitors.
Moreover, the Pavilion hosts site-specific installations created by Italian artists. Following an exhibition by Fabrizio Plessi in 2016 and Loris Cecchini 2017, we now have “Greetings from Venice”, an art creation by Elisabetta di Maggio. The installation features 100,000 postage stamps from around the world put together by hand to represent the past and present history and culture of the Fondaco building. To involve the local community and promote the employment and professional experiences of the young local population, DFS collaborated with the artist and students from Venice’s Marco Polo Artistic High School who worked together for six months to bring the Venice installation to life at the Event Pavilion.
Our T Fondaco dei Tedeschi team celebrated the annual Carnival of Venice festival with exciting activations both inside and outside the store throughout the first few weeks of February. Through partnerships with different local venues and special in-store performances, customers visiting our store had a chance to join in the city’s festive celebrations.
The ultimate goal of luxury retailers is to create an experience. What has been your approach?
One of our top priorities at DFS is to deliver an exciting experience for our customers. A large space such as the Fondaco, which attracts thousands of visitors a day, demands constant activations to surprise and delight our customers. We plan numerous activations with our international and local brand partners, we also partner with cultural institutions and local designers and artists to continually bring something new and innovative to our store.
Last September, T Fondaco dei Tedeschi participated in the first edition of Venice Glass Week, an international festival dedicated to the art of glass. As part of DFS’ commitment to support local artisans, the store displayed two series of artwork, both of which garnered very positive feedback from customers and the local media, and also helped drive traffic and sales to our Food and Gifts section of the store where the exhibit was located
Do you plan to open other luxury department stores in Europe? Are there are destinations you are particularly targeting?
Yes, we are getting ready to open in the French capital of Paris at the historically significant La Samaritaine complex, featuring 20,000 square meters of commercial space. We will have an exceptional selection of brands spanning beauty, fashion and accessories, watches and jewelry, wines and spirits and food and gift offerings which we are very excited about!
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