Veneto-born womenswear brand Forte Forte brings its poetic, artisanal aesthetic to the UK this month with the opening of a small, but beautifully formed concept store on Chelsea’s Draycott Avenue. It’s the fourth international flagship for sister and brother co-founders Giada and Paolo Forte; second generation clothes producers who studied knitwear and business respectively before launching the label in 2002 with hand-finished t-shirts. Since then the brand has evolved to become a purveyor of elegant, timeless pieces in gentle palettes and sensuous fabrics such as velvet, cashmere, silk satin and georgette – generating an annual turnover of €22m.
In keeping with the brand’s emphasis on tactility each flagship has been designed by Giada Forte and her life partner, art director Robert Vattilana with the materiality and handcrafted fabric of the interior architecture showcased as much as the goods. Forerunner boutiques in Milan and Paris (in the neighbourhoods of Brera and Saint-Germain) are suitably dreamy, pastel spaces of travertine and pink onyx, with warm metallic elements and garments displayed on sculptural brass rails suspended from the ceilings and sprouting up from the floors.
The London store is bolder with a rougher edge. Terracotta floors complement the exposed brick wall which provides an eye-catching pixelated textural backdrop visible from the storefront. Handmade in Sicily, the red clay bricks were laid over two months to create overhangs and recesses, light and shadow, punctuated by occasional flashes of colour in the form of gold leaf and turquoise cracked ceramic bricks. The spine of the store, this wall extends out to wrap around a courtyard garden at the rear, with a single Japanese maple tree at its heart.
It may be grittier, but there are threads integral to Forte Forte’s DNA that weave throughout the space, not least the ‘harmony of contrasts and mixed materials’. There's a nod to Italian Rationalism present here in the hefty grey stone composite – ceppo lombardo – cash counter and display shelves, which also house tropical alocasia and montstera plants, while also extending to become floating stair treads, providing access to the suspended wall-hung brass staircase.
Brass is a recurring accent, part of Forte Forte’s design lexicon, present in the gleaming spindly clothing rails and hangers and in the frosted brass changing room façades and doors complete with porthole windows. These open into cubicles lined in capitonné velvet. Armchairs, chaise longues, abstract artworks, and Aldo Londi pieces by Bitossi ceramics lend, a softer residential feel.
‘London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with an incredibly diverse mix of people which inevitably stimulates a sense of creativity,’ says Giada of the new store. ‘It was the perfect next step for us. Even though the city is so large, we love the fact that each area has such a unique, intimate feeling – almost like a group of villages. In particular, Chelsea, felt very natural to us.’
Forte Forte, 108 Draycott Avenue, London, SW3. forte-forte.com