Valentina Bortolato

Fortuny has always jealously guarded its founder’s printing and dyeing techniques, Mariano Fortuny, allowing the public a glimpse of his world only through its showrooms in Venice and New York.  

During the stewardship of Countess Elsie Lee Gozzi, her private palazzina adorned in the best of Fortuny acted as her primary showroom for visitors to Venice. She was famous for her hospitality, welcoming tours of Americans and Europe’s elite to join her for a luncheon in the garden and a peek at Fortuny’s fine fabrics.  

The idea for a formal showroom at the historic factory in Giudecca wasn’t conceived of until 2009 when the Riad family invited American interior designer Barry Dixon to create a space to lavishly display Fortuny’s extensive offerings. Dixon’s Venice design brought out the magic of Fortuny fabrics, many elements of which he brought in for the redesign of the New York showroom in 2010.  

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the city of Venice was the helpless victim of l’acqua alta, the tidal phenomenon which is mostly a minor annoyance to the city’s inhabitants but can also be powerfully destructive. L’acqua alta of 2019 was the second-highest tide recorded in Venice and submerged more than 99% of the city. The Fortuny showroom on Giudecca was no exception.  

When the water receded, Fortuny’s jewel box display no longer shined like it once had, and much of the damage was beyond repair. The timing, however, was fortunate, as the company celebrates the 150th Birthday of Mariano Fortuny in 2021 and the centenary of the factory on Giudecca in 2022. The necessity to renovate went from a tragedy to an opportunity to express the vision for a 21st century Fortuny.    

In collaboration with the Venetian architect Alberto Torsello, a new vision for Fortuny’s Venetian showroom was dreamed of: one which links the beating heart—the fabric—to the soul of Fortuny—Venice. Renovations began at the end of May and are planned to be completed by the end of July. For visitors to Venice, the Countess’ palazzina, located just next door to the factory, will once again, for a short while at least, act as our showroom.