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Dec / Jan 2017
Top Shop

WRITER: Irene McConnell

Just a hundred metres from St. Mark’s Square in Venice lies a new Dolce & Gabbana boutique that epitomises a new design strategy and holds its own as a culture destination.

Most fashion labels have a carefully crafted identity that they replicate in every one of their outlets across the globe. In so doing, they hope that shoppers will find reassurance in familiar surroundings, no matter if they’re in Tokyo, London, Milan or Abu Dhabi. Interestingly, Dolce & Gabbana has chosen to buck that trend and are now offering unique retail experiences that reflect each setting’s individual culture and context, all the while keeping the brand’s identity at the very heart of each space. This heterogeneous approach started with their flagship store in Milan, then continued in St. Barts, and has now culminated in Venice.

 

Hand-blown murano glass chandeliers made by the Seguso family hang in the regal ground floor entrance.

 

Opened just six months ago (in which time the brand has renovated a further store, in London), the Italian boutique on Calle Larga XXII Marzo is set between Gucci and Tod’s, in a magnificent neo-Venetian renaissance style palazzo. The historic structure, which dates back to 1880, was originally designed by the architect and sculptor Giuseppe Torres to house a ground level bank and a second level private residence. But, following an extensive renovation by the American architect Eric Carlson and his Paris-based firm Carbondale – supported by Save Venice and the Venetian Heritage associations – it is now a stunning two-storey Dolce & Gabbana tourist attraction.

 

The ground floor entrance of the boutique, with its wooden bas-reliefs and floors paved with ancient marble inlays, leads onto a golden hallway featuring handbags on floating brass shelves.

 

“I was asked to design a store, but Venice is not a shopping destination like Paris or Milan, Venice is a cultural destination,” explains Carlson. “Visitors from all over the world come to discover the city's urbanism, historical architecture, the art biennale – my vision was to create a cultural destination for Dolce & Gabbana’s store in Venice.”

From the moment you enter through the meticulously restored façade and step through the entrance you’re greeted by a majestic entry hall that’s a celebration of Venetian artisanal craftsmanship. There are inlaid mosaic floors, marble pillars, intricately carved wood panels on the walls and ceiling and dramatic chandeliers made of Murano glass. Filled with men’s and women’s accessories displayed in unobtrusive glass cases, it combines the feeling of a museum and the style of the late 19th century with a tribute to modern luxury and opulence.

 

Each part of the modern section of the boutique is characterised by its own marble detailing, for example there's red Lepanto in the women’s area and mint green marble in the men's.

 

“This was an opportunity to pay homage and support the future of many local artisans by showing how these historic houses and their highly refined virtuosity dating back centuries can be reinterpreted in a modern manner,” adds Carlson.

Comprising a total of 800 square metres, the store extends from the historic palazzo to a modern annex behind it, which was designed entirely by Carbondale. Each of the 14 rooms is assigned a particular colour and character. The central atrium, illuminated by a skylight, is like a 20-metre long time travel tunnel, lined with spectacular 24-karat gold glass mosaic, marbled Venetian stucco and 45 floating brass shelves displaying handbags. Then there’s the men’s clothing and footwear spaces, which are arrayed in shades of green, while the women’s rooms are enrobed in red (with red silk carpeting, soft furnishings swathed in red velvet and tables and clothing stands made of red Murano glass) contrasted with polished brass creating a feeling of delightful decadence. Upstairs, more rooms house formal and eveningwear, including a space hewn in shades of muted gold that’s dedicated exclusively to womenswear, and a royal blue fine-jewellery space that features a floor mosaic in black Marquina marble, with the walls decorated in mosaics of dark blue glass with gold leaf stars.

 

Upstairs, the marble of the women's ready-to-wear room contrasts with the Verde Antigua of the main staircase.

 

“We took the idea of the traditional Italian villa and its many rooms, each with their own personality. And the final result represents a rare fearless contemporary beauty without relying on austerity or minimalism. I love it. It’s sumptuous,” concludes Carlson. “For me, this could also perfectly describe Dolce & Gabbana.”

 

 

The women's eveningwear room is defined by a wood inlaid flooring, brilliant gold damask and Gialo Siena marble.

 

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