Re-Branding

My piece on Fendi’s efforts to save the Trevi fountain has just been published by Time.

When Rome’s 18th century artists put the final touches on the city’s famous Trevi Fountain, they capped the Baroque monument with a dedication from the Renaissance-era Popes who commissioned it. The fountain, immortalized in the film La Dolce Vita, is about to undergo a $2.9 million renovation, but this time, the sponsor isn’t a Pope, an Emperor or even the Italian government. It’s the luxury-fashion firm Fendi. “This is a gesture to give back to the city that did so much for us,” says Fendi CEO Pietro Beccari.

As Italy stumbles through political and financial crises, it is struggling to preserve its historical treasures. Since 2010, funding for archaeological maintenance has been slashed by 20%. Increasingly, help is pouring in from the nation’s high-fashion firms, including Fendi, Tod’s, Gucci and Prada. (See sidebar.) All these firms built their fortunes with the aid of Italy’s reputation for beauty, elegance and craftsmanship. The upkeep of that reputation–which means the upkeep of the nation’s priceless works of art and architecture–just seems like good brand management. “These companies see themselves as linked to the country’s heritage,” says Darius Arya of the American Institute for Roman Culture.

Read the rest.