Best are those friendships unchanged by the distance of time or place. Neither the changes within us nor the length between meetings can temper the comfort that immediately sets in. The cadence of speech continues as if the conversation’s flow began earlier that same day. Venice is very much like a best friend in that sense.
Venice’s roots run deep, and returning to the city never fails to inspire or impress. A year and a half had passed since I was last here. Experiencing the familiarity of Venice juxtaposed against the surreal nature of the floating city once again, it felt as though I never left. Each day starts at sunrise on the Giudecca and feels like a week, yet each week feels like a day. Time moves differently here.
Despite the masks, the signage, and having my face assaulted by q-tips on three occasions before being granted entry to Italy, it feels as though we are finally moving past the pandemic. There is hope in that. And lots of gratitude.
One purpose for this trip is to officially introduce our latest collection, Imago, at a press event in the Fortuny palazzina and garden located at our factory. The collection took seed and shape under significant restrictions. When the lockdowns first began last year, we entered a chrysalis phase. We were compelled to build a cocoon-like shell around us, not as a barrier to separate us from the world, but as a protective means to allow us to go inward and focus on what it is we do best. We believed we would eventually emerge from this; the hope was to emerge as better versions of ourselves. The collection took its inspiration from Venice, our factory, and the garden from which everything we do stems. Defined as the adult stage of a butterfly’s life, Imago was the perfect word to identify this collection and our re-emergence into the world.
The 25 fabrics comprising Imago were sequenced to lead our guests through the garden, an outdoor exhibition to immerse everyone into the inspiration behind the collection. Turning the corner from our courtyard towards the garden, only one fabric is seen in the distance, Melagrana mercury & silver. Hanging from the archway of wisteria, it serves as a flag to invite you closer. As you approach the Melagrana, other fabrics become noticeable between the ancient columns supporting the wisteria, drawing you further into the garden. Beginning with the moodier, darker fabrics, the colors then shift towards the greens of the collection, symbolizing hope and optimism.
Barberini garden monotones, the first fabric imagined for Imago, takes center stage. From the wisteria archway on the west side of the garden, hang another ten of the more brightly-hued fabrics from Imago, leading to the arch of roses for an olfactory treat before discovering the last three fabrics of the collection. Melagrana in coral haze is draped around Venus while Orfeo in petrol, koi & graphite dresses Adonis. Our Venetian-inspired design, Camo Isole in vetiver, aqua & gold, a blue-green hue that evokes the tonality of the lagoon, is draped from the factory underneath the grapevines as the final fabric of the presentation, bringing us full circle to Venice and our factory.
To finally be back, standing in the garden, surrounded by the fabrics from the collection alongside all the team members who created it, sharing this magical place and the joy of what we do with guests for the first time in well over a year, was a beautiful moment, one I did not realize I had been longing for.
The next day, after a morning of press interviews, the entire Fortuny team came together in the garden for a bittersweet celebration of the retirement of our longest-standing employee. Paolo Scatto has been an instrumental member of our team since he began working for Fortuny in 1980. With everyone gathered in the garden to toast a beloved colleague, sharing stories and laughs as the sun bathed us in a warm terracotta glow, it was hard not to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. I missed seeing people smile with their whole face, not just their eyes.
I booked my return seat on the right-hand side of the aircraft in the hopes that I could see the Alps. Representing both eternal steadfastness and great change, I am reminded once more of Venice. The pulse of Venice is felt and experienced in the city’s culture and people, not in new structures or buildings. Its refusal to change helps reveal how we change and what ways we, as stubborn as the city, don’t. A measure of unwillingness to change is good, but too much resistance hampers growth. Life is all about balance. Roots without wings won’t take you anywhere, but wings without roots won’t take you much farther.