From Cocoon forth a Butterfly
For the last year, brands big and small have danced a delicate dance addressing the enormity of the global pandemic. On social media and television, a message of optimism and escape provides relief from heartache and melancholy. No one is untouched.
Humanity is at Fortuny’s core: we were a man before we were a brand. One thing that humans –Mariano Fortuny included– have proven again and again is our resilience and determination. The ability to grow stronger and bolder as a result of hardship is what gives us hope for what’s to come.
It would be unfeeling of us not to acknowledge the struggles of the past year. Over 2.5 million people worldwide, over 500,000 Americans, and almost 100,000 Italians have died. A return to “normal” is both an anguished wish and a seemingly impossible task. Carrying on with a renewed spirit is how we honor the memory of those we have lost and the bravery of those whose perseverance and ingenuity have brought us through the worst of it.
2020 is not the first year to bring the world to its knees. The first half of the 20th century witnessed two world wars and a crippling economic depression, all during the infancy of the Fortuny brand.
Following the First World War, Mariano saw some of his greatest hardships, as well as one of his most successful textile innovations. Had the Japanese silks he worked with in the early years not become harder to come by and more expensive and with fewer clients to pay these high prices, Mariano may never have experimented with printing on cotton.
Even after successfully growing the production of his hand printed textiles and opening the Giudecca factory in Venice, Mariano still struggled. The 1929 Wall Street crash in the United States, which had rippling effects around the globe, precipitated some of Mariano’s greatest challenges.
In the 1930s, Mariano almost lost his factory through bad business associations, if not for the cunning of his friend and American distributor Elsie McNeill. At the outset of the Second World War, Allied Forces placed blockades around Italy, cutting off Mariano from his primary markets and forcing his shops around Europe to close. Even after the war, he had considerable repairs to make to the factory and had to reestablish all his distribution channels, many of which were gone forever.
Through it all, Mariano persisted against the odds. One hundred years later, our fine art textile production continues. The strength Mariano demonstrated throughout his career is an example of how the darkest periods are always followed by light.
Last year at this time, as one of the first Italian companies to close our factory to help stop the spread, we were talking about the chrysalis phase. We seized the moment as an opportunity to look inward, reflect, and be better because of it. Even with so much uncertainty, our March 2020 newsletter said it best: “We will emerge from it; how we emerge from it is ultimately up to us.”
This has been our guiding principle throughout the last year, especially while working on our newest collection: IMAGO. Imago is the final stage of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis– the butterfly stage. Emerging out of this impossibly strenuous year, we are determined to become our most beautiful and fully-realized self. IMAGO is our way of doing so.
Rhapsody in Green
Entering Barberini Garden Monotones is entering a vast and lush secret garden inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The pattern further pays tribute to the Barberini family with the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of Florence, where they hailed from. This dizzying labyrinth of vines and stems, laden with floral blossoms, inundates the senses with perfumed tranquility. The sister greens of Garden Monotones intertwined in play express the subtle contrasts between old and new growth.
In this delightful Eden, one can imagine an endless afternoon of hide-and-seek, ducking behind overflowing foliage. Or perhaps a moonlit assignation among the abundant rosebuds, soaking up earthly life. Barberini Garden Monotones is a departure from daily life into a lovingly tended fantasy. Whether on drapery or a sofa, in the bedroom or living room, Barberini Garden Monotones is an eternal spring, bringing the color and charm of bucolic life into your home.
Creator Talk with Mickey Riad
Since the beginning of 1998, Mickey and Maury Riad have been the stewards of Mariano Fortuny’s legacy. For the past 23 years, the brothers have continued to produce innovative textiles in colors that defy category, with Mickey’s creative sensitivities authoring many of our recent collections.
When asked about the secret process that makes Fortuny fabrics so remarkable, Mickey spun a fantastical tale about underground passages and magical canals, involving creatures that seemed pulled from a Tolkien novel. And fairy dust. Lots of fairy dust.
Clearly, he was keeping Fortuny’s proprietary process behind tight lips. While that wasn’t the answer I was looking for, Mickey did provide insight into his creative process and what we can look forward to with our latest collection, IMAGO.
This newest contribution to the Fortuny catalog drops March 22.
What is your process from start to finish from data gathering to final product, what are the steps you take?
A lot of it is really having the antennas up — picking up on nuances in the ether and feeling how colors might be shifting, but almost in a subconscious kind of way. I don’t like following trends. You have to be aware of what’s going and what’s happening out there, but at the same time, you can’t pay too much attention to it as not to overly influence what we do.
I usually start out with a color or two that I respond to viscerally and build a palette from there. From there, I experiment with color combinations to see what strikes a chord and then build off of that to make it cohesive. I cast a wide net and then edit until a color story emerges. I will know when the color story is complete by exploring removing color to see if the rest of the palette tells the story we want to tell. If we take one of the colors out or one of the patterns out, and it doesn’t feel balanced anymore, I know it belongs back in there, even if I know it won’t be a best seller. It is more about telling a complete story and having fun, drawing the right kind of attention that can spark inspiration.
Where do you get your inspiration from when creating a new collection?
It depends. Sometimes it will be a pattern. But oftentimes, I’ll get obsessed with a color that grabs me in the gut and gets stuck in my head. I keep returning to it over and over and keep pulling on that thread until I see what it’s attached to.
Does the legacy of Mariano ever help inspire or complicate your process when creating something new?
To live up to his namesake sure that what we do is worthy of having his signature on it definitely puts some pressure on it. But I think that it’s a good kind of pressure. For a while, it felt a little restrictive but in more recent years Maury and I have learned how to inject a bit of our personal style and taste that reflects a more contemporary relevance. We are definitely rooted in Fortuny’s traditions and past but at the same time, we fully embrace his love of innovation and technology, the spirit that has always fueled our work.
Do you ever find yourself just looking through historic materials to find inspiration?
All the time. We have a pretty substantial collection of his original fabrics and so there will definitely be certain color combinations that I notice that feel very modern to me. We want to expand on that and grow it in a way that remains true to Fortuny but also brings in a very fresh and relevant look.
Was not being in Venice one of your biggest struggles when creating this collection?
It was extremely difficult. Between the factory in Venice and our location in New York, we were caught in both epicenters of the breakout and dealing with the uncertainty and the fear that was really crippling so much of the world. I labored over this one a lot but searching for beauty really informed so much of it. It required so much of me being able to put myself there [in Venice] without being there. I found myself visiting Venice through photographs I had taken and through art books from various exhibitions I had visited there throughout the years.
Do you think it would’ve been a completely different collection had you been able to be in Venice for it?
Absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind. But that doesn’t mean it would have been any better. It just would have been different.
When creating a collection, what compels you to do color renewals vs. new patterns vs. patterns from the archives?
That usually starts to work itself out once the palette is determined and we start applying certain colors to certain patterns. It is always fun to be able to introduce some of Mariano Fortuny’s original archival patterns that feel very modern, but had never been printed on fabric or discontinued decades ago.
What inspired this color selection?
The color that started this collection was deep, jungle green. And it came from staring out my window in lockdown, taking daily walks, and watching nature and spring unfold. There was something so optimistic about these greens, so full of life, yet heavy and grounded. It felt as though humanity was panicking yet the earth was taking a deep breath. There was a calmness and joy to it that I wanted to embrace. A designer once told me “you can use any hue of green together and it won’t clash, as long as it is a green found in nature.” That always stuck with me. This idea that it’s a part of our DNA in seeing the natural world since humans could see. And it totally just made sense how many shades of green there are in a jungle or in a garden and how it always works. I don’t think you have that with other colors the same way you do with green. So that kind of became the foundation that I built everything around.
This collection is almost split down the middle half classics/damasks and half moderns/tribals. What was the process for choosing these pattern combinations?
It was looking for a balance. As we begin our 100th year of production at the factory, I really wanted to show a collection that shows the breadth of Fortuny’s artistry, shows the different styles of patterns, and the different techniques that we do. Whether it’s with the multiple pattern printing, like Camo or Orfeo, or just patterns that are very mottled to very modern to very traditional and doing it in a way that felt cohesive, that it felt like one collection and not just all over the place. This collection was also greatly informed by our amazing team. There was a lot of feedback that helped guide certain decisions before we even went into production. Having that insight from a group of Fortuny aficionados was so instrumental to making it what it ultimately became.
What’s new about this collection?
There are some greens we’ve never done before, as well as a couple of rosy hues. We also expanded on our blues and our greys a bit. What I am most excited about is a new metallic we experimented with, — something we had started working on about three years ago. Our metallics are a very special part of what we do at Fortuny. They have that beautiful oxidation that takes place and age the way a fine antique or wine would. It helps give these fabrics that possess a soul a special life, as well. And we’re still learning from it. If you look at the collection, the graphite on the Favo and the Mayan reads so differently than it does on the Camo or Orfeo. The way it plays with the light and how it looks from different angles fascinates me.
You’ve mentioned this in the past, but often people are so in awe of the reverse side of the fabric. Did you keep that in mind when creating this collection?
There were several that I had originally designed specifically to be reversible, to look completely different on one side from the other. But due to our process, it’s nearly impossible to have any sort of a standard for the reverse side. It’s too unpredictable how the reverse side ends up. It’s definitely something we’re still working on and pursuing. Nonetheless, fans of Fortuny ask us if specific pieces can be used on the reverse, there is a very abstract watery-ness to the reverse that I think is really special.
Is there anything in this collection you’d put in your home? Do you already have plans to put anything in your home?
I wasn’t thinking this was gonna go in my home before, but when I saw it, it just blew me away. The Camo fog & graphite is one of my favorites. And the Sevres bistro monotones… those two really grab me in the gut. I haven’t found a place for the Sevres, but I know a perfect spot for the Camo. I am also obsessed with Melagrana mercury & silvery gold.
Are there any combos you’d put together from the new collection?
I like the Orfeo Koi and the Melagrana Coral — I think those two look great together. I love the greens together. The Mayan and the Simboli. I really love that Beliini Orfeo with the graphite and I think that one looks really nice with the Camo vetiver.
As I wrapped up the phone call with Mickey, I couldn’t help but feel excited and hopeful for this year. Even if we can’t be in Venice to watch spring bloom through the island of Giudecca, this collection brings a dream of Venice home.
New York, March 2021
INSIDE: The Dining Room
A welcome respite from the world of technology, the dining room is a space designed for talking, eating and drinking, and enjoying moments together with friends and family. There is such specificity of purpose to the dining room and for good reason. Without distractions, we can connect in more meaningful ways, and the more inspiring the design, the more inspired the conversation.
This dining room palette, utilizing our newest collection, mixes the shadowy theatrics of Sevres Bistro Monotones with the glittery geometry of Rabat in Parchment & Gold. On the table, Melagrana Coral Haze is a fountain of pink and gold, flowing straight from the Generalife gardens in the Alhambra. This combination was made for candle-lit dinners and long conversations about art, life, and beauty.
Want to know more about our new collection? Sign up via email to be the first to receive our e-catalog for IMAGO, debuting on March 22.
Listen to our latest playlist inspired by the dining room and catch the vibes Fortuny brings to your home.
parchment & gold
coral haze & silvery gold