trevi

Tourists at the Trevi fountain, March 2013 (Image author’s own)

The Trevi Fountain experiencing some of ‘the good life’

Blogger Poppy Cooper on why heritage and fashion go so well together and why sponsoring history is SO this season…

The Heritage sector has been buzzing recently with the news that the fashion label Fendi has pledged to sponsor a 2.2 million euro restoration of the iconic Trevi Fountain in Rome, along with two other fountain projects.

The Baroque fountain is in dire need of a facelift, and, thanks to its unlikely saviour, will now undergo the most thorough restoration in its history. Karl Lagerfeld, Fendi’s creative director, has cited the fountain’s connection to water and life, as well as its symbolic representation of the ancient city of Rome, as the reasons for his unexpected philanthropy.

The Trevi fountain which stands today was built during the Baroque period. At over 26 metres high and 49 metres wide, it is the largest fountain of its type in the city. The fountain marks the end point of the Acqua Vergine (ancient Aqua Virgo), an aqueduct which supplied water to the Baths of Agrippa. The aqueduct provided Rome with fresh, pure water (hence the name) for over four hundred years before the sacking of Rome in the fifth century, where the Visigoths cut off the City’s aqueducts as a final blow to Roman citizens.

In the 18th century, when public competitions were all the rage, Pope Clements XII organised a contest to remake the old fountain which was won by Nicola Salvi, who began work in 1732. The fountain was completed thirty years later, long after Salvi’s death, with Oceanus (the god of water) as the focal point. Today, tourists flock to the fountain to throw coins in (thus ensuring their return to Rome) and see the setting for famous scenes of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita; it is one of Rome’s most popular attractions.

The iconic scene from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Image courtesy of the Telegraph)

The iconic scene from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Image courtesy of the Telegraph)

So why is Fendi interested in restoring the Trevi fountain? Historic sites aren’t exactly known for being fashion conscious, and these two worlds rarely intertwine. The benefits for The Trevi fountain are clear; for Fendi however, the pluses aren’t quite so concrete.

This is about the most profound act of brand association. Fendi wants to reinforce it’s ‘Italianess’, and beyond that,  it’s ‘Romanness’.

We are proud of being tied to the city, but I believe not everyone knows, and this is a great occasion to do something for the city that hosts us” – Silvia Fendi.

The brand of Rome is definitely a powerful one; dating back thousands of years, steeped in legends filled with war, love and lust. How better for the fashion magnates to piggy-back on its gravitas and grandeur than by modelling themselves as interested saviours of such a quintessentially Roman landmark? By hitching themselves to this famous monument, they are associating themselves with all the glamour that Italy and Rome bring with them.

The fashion house has already enjoyed incredible press, will have their ads displayed around the fountain throughout the restoration, will receive a plaque dedicated to them on site and will hold fashion shows around the fountain after the project is completed. A fantastic piece of PR!

Although one might question the motives of the fashion giant, the results, so far anyway, are very positive for heritage. Extra funds and publicity are the missing lifeblood for this field at the moment and, although coming from an unlikely source, one can’t deny they are welcome. In my opinion association with the brand is not negative either – why not bring archaeology and history into the relevant present and aim to make them more accessible?

Fendi aren’t the first fashion label to put their name to an ancient landmark. In 2011, Tod’s, the Italian luxury shoe group, announced a project to fund the cost of the restoration of the Coliseum, at a cost of 25 million euros. Renzo Russo, the Italian founder of Diesel, has recently pledged 4 million pounds to salvage Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge.

With any luck, this new trend will continue, and we’ll see Burberry stepping into save Stonehenge, or Chanel providing funds to preserve the Lascaux cave paintings. Perhaps Kim Kardashian will pay for a new dig at Mesa Verde…too far?

Follow Poppy on Twitter: @Museumwatch

 

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