What defines a fashion house in 2020? Some might point to the kind of devoted following that deems the appointment of any new creative lead as controversial, a shift into the lifestyle sector complete with homeware line or, perhaps, a destination restaurant.
The fashion café, of course, is nothing new– early adopter Armani has opened eateries in locations from Cannes to Cairo– but what surely started as a quest to keep shoppers in stores has become a new kind of showroom for creativity and craft. Some generate exclusivity by their fleeting nature: pop-up spaces whipped up to coincide with fashion weeks and disassembled a month or two later. Harrods has played host to some of the splashiest, such as the monochrome Fendi Caffe of last year or current resident Tiffany’s Blue Box Cafe, dressed in the brand’s signature shade of robin egg blue.
Permanent fixtures are less overtly branded– you’ll find no monogrammed logo on your cappuccino here – and tend to spring up in the city that birthed the label: Wes Anderson-designed Bar Luce by Prada would be out of place anywhere other than its Milan hometown. That’s not to say they’re not transportive – last September, cult French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus christened the new Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées department store (that most Parisian of locations) with Mediterranean Café Citron and restaurant Oursin, replete with rattan chairs, lime-washed walls and a menu inspired by his Provençal childhood.
Some might have expected French fashion titan Louis Vuitton to follow suit for its long-awaited first restaurant. Instead, the brand has transformed the top floor of its new Jun Aoki-designed flagship Osaka maison in Japan into restaurant and café combo Sugalabo V and Le Café V. Helmed by Joël Robuchon protégé Yosuke Suga, the restaurant’s chocolate-brown space is contrasted by the airier adjacent café, with its walnut-topped brass bar and fabric-panelled ‘cocoon room’. Almost all the furniture has been selected from LouisVuitton’s ‘Objets Nomades’ collection – think playful shapes from Swiss outfit AtelierOï and Brazil’s Estudio Campana – bar a table flanked by Pierre Paulin ‘Tulip’ chairs.
Gucci, meanwhile, has looked stateside for the follow-up to its restaurant at Florence cultural campus Gucci Garden, which was a labour of love born from the life-long friendship of CEO Marco Bizzarri and lauded chef Massimo Bottura. Opened in February, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills is a slightly less exuberant sibling to the original, with the same Italian flair (and covetable wallpaper), plus herringbone floors, burgundy velvet banquettes and a terrace that overlooks the boutiques of Rodeo Drive. It, too, was conceived in-house – this time under the eye of Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele – in recognition of the restaurant’s place as an experiential showcase of the brand’s DNA.
The first Osteria in Florence has now earned a Michelin star, proving that the fashion restaurant can be a place of style and substance. If done right, it will forge further connection with the label’s loyalists, while offering a route for casual followers to buy into the brand. Maybe, then, it’s as important as anything that comes down the catwalk.
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration September 2020
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