By  on October 19, 2012

ROME — Locations are increasingly paramount for fashioncompanies in this crowded and uncertain market as brands heavily investin planting their flags on prime spots around the world.

Max Marahas an enviable advantage in its newly renovated boutique in Rome’s ViaCondotti, a few minutes away from the Spanish Steps, and located in the17th century Palazzo Torlonia, once owned by Napoleon’s family and nowstill a residence of some members of the Torlonias, cousins of theSpanish royal family. The Torlonia coat of arms decorates a vault in theflagship, which was unveiled Thursday with a cocktail event and adinner at the palazzo to be attended by actresses Cody Horn, KatySaunders, jewelry designer Lucia Odescalchi and Princess Mafalda vonHessen, among others.

“There is a symbolic value of history, andit’s incredible to be in the heart of the city and in the heart of thepalazzo in a city such as Rome, which is not only Italian, butrepresents universal values that do not exist anywhere else in theworld. Rome belongs to the world, to everyone,” said Max Mara chairmanLuigi Maramotti, sitting on a sofa in one of the living roomlike areasthat pepper the boutique, the sunny Roman sky filtering through a windowadorned with strings of wicker.

“Yes, there is a return tosymbolic values of nature,” he added, when asked about the cane sticksand the diverse kinds of wood that cover many of the walls. The colorpalette also revolves around earthy tones.

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Tracing a parallelbetween the universal nature of Rome and Max Mara in the realm offashion, Maramotti said that the group his father, Achille Maramotti,founded in 1951 “incorporates universal, absolute values. That’s why Ifind the Made in Italy expression reductive. Creativity should not bepegged under one specific flag. Through our history, our focus wasalways on design.”

In opening the store and holding an eventthat included private tours of the Sistine Chapel and other Roman sites —“underlining the concept of universality” — Maramotti was undeterred bythe challenging economy in Italy and in the euro zone. “The idea is tocontinue to invest and to go forward. It’s an essential philosophy, wemust strive for progress, we must have faith and take some risks,” hesaid.

He observed that Rome “is clearly an attraction wherecertain problematic issues are less pronounced and where the crisis isbalanced by the increasing number of tourists.”

Maramotti saidthat he has “very ambitious plans.” The goal with the store is to grow25 percent each year for the first two years, he said.

The8,611-square-foot store covers one floor and was conceived by thecompany’s long-standing collaborating studio, Duccio Grassi Architects.The unit carries the main collections under the group’s umbrella, fromthe Max Mara and Sportmax labels, to Weekend, ’S Max Mara and the bridalgowns. Accessories are displayed at the entrance, and the focus here ison the new tote made expressly for this venue: the Roma bag for spring,with its acetate tortoise clasp, a wink to the Baroque Turtle Fountainand the bronze turtles by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and its precious deerleather. “It’s a tribute to the effort of creation and to the drive foruniqueness,” said Maramotti. Noteworthy also is a circular room entirelydedicated to footwear — a first for the group.

The company,which has 2,334 boutiques in 100 countries, is also looking to expand inthe U.K., which Maramotti defined as “a very interesting market,” andin the U.S. A store in Melbourne, Australia, and the renovation of aunit in Tokyo are in the works. Max Mara has been stepping up its retailpresence in China, where it opened a new flagship in Hong Kong in July.While a firm believer in the growth potential of e-commerce, Maramottisaid he still very much believed in “the personal dimension, therelations” that are part of the “experience in a sales point, whichcannot be replaced. [A store’s] storytelling is embedded in people.”

Lastyear, the Italian clothing firm reported sales of 1.26 billion euros,or $1.63 billion at average exchange. While declining to provideestimated revenues for 2012, Maramotti said he expected growth.

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