By  on September 21, 2006

Several fashion houses today rely on their own theaters as a show location, but Versace will introduce an amphitheater to present its spring collection on Sept. 29.

"The oval room where the show will be held features the same proportions of classical amphitheaters — Rome's Coliseum or the Arena in Verona, for example — an unusual fact for a theater," explained architect Rocco Magnoli of Studio Spatium, who restored the 1929 Teatro Alcione for Versace. "An elliptical shape is more dynamic than a circle and the focus is not the center, but the straight axis between the two ends — perfect for a runway."

Versace chief executive Giancarlo Di Risio said the company has invested between 3 million and 4 million euros, or $3.8 million and $5 million at current exchange, in the project. "The theater will be part of a new Versace division dedicated to art, culture and fashion," said Di Risio. "Also, Donatella Versace plans to help promote young designers by allowing them to use this space."

He added that a calendar of events will be ready by the end of the year, when the restoration will be completed.

"Theater is part of Versace's DNA and the company owns an impressive art collection, which we plan to open to the public," said Di Risio. Versace Teatro will seat about 880 people.

Originally designed by architect Saul Venturini, the theater is ensconced in the courtyard of a residential building on Piazza Vetra, a few steps from the San Lorenzo basilica in the increasingly trendy Porta Ticinese area. It escaped World War II bombing and had been closed for more than 15 years. Di Risio spotted the theater last November and began the restoration in April.

Magnoli focused on improving the acoustics and on keeping the structure intact, with its original columns and vaults, while stripping it of balconies and galleries added over the years that cut into the geometry of the room. Guests at the show will not be able to view that part of the structure, however, as it will be shrouded in a thick, black synthetic covering. "There are no borders, which adds a sense of infinity," he said.This neutral space will also be able to hold different events, according to the architect.

"It's flexible," said Magnoli. Although there is a main entrance on Piazza Vetra, which looks onto the foyer, there are other entrances on four other streets intersecting around the building. "These entrances are almost like windows for us, giving more vitality to the area's streetscape."

Magnoli is a longtime Versace architect who has also worked on the Palazzo Versace hotel on Australia's Gold Coast.

This week, Versace also reopened its Florence boutique on Via De' Tornabuoni, near the city's iconic Ponte Vecchio. The store, located in a historical medieval tower (previously Palazzo Spini) was restored over the past year — a delicate project under city regulations to preserve the building's cultural heritage.

Versace maintained the architectural integrity of the red brick tower, the original columns, pillars and brickwork, and a central cross-shaped pillar. The four-story, 3,780-square-foot shop, however, also reflects other recently renovated Versace boutiques, with lacquered black wood and bright Antelio crystal for the fittings. The boutique, which carries the whole range of Versace products and features a VIP Atelier area, was launched Wednesday with a cocktail party for around 300 guests. In a statement, the company said the boutique "is the perfect window for our new retail strategy, based on making the Versace shopping experience more stimulating and enjoyable than ever."

For the occasion, the company introduced the new Versace Couture Limited Edition "Jet Bag," a structured, white quilted nappa tote with the brand's staple Greek fret motif and the Couture gold tag.

The bag refers to this spring's agreement between Versace and TAG (Techniques d'Avant Garde) Aviation. Under the licensing terms, Versace will personalize interiors of private planes with the brand's new Home Couture line, introduced in Milan last April during the international furniture and design exhibition, the Salone del Mobile. The 100 "Jet Bags" will be available exclusively at Versace boutiques starting in November.

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