ROME — As she grows up, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, 32, is becoming more and more similar to her mother, Silvia Venturini Fendi, the creative director of Fendi men’s and accessories collection. The same discreet refinement, a subtle Roman accent and eyes that sometimes speak more than words. However, Delfina, like every woman in the Fendi clan, has her distinctive traits, which in her case result in a sense of intriguing mystery, not only floating around her, but also giving distinction to her Delfina Delettrez jewelry line, launched in 2007. While this was originally infused with a sort of rebellious, dark and maybe a bit punk attitude, now the brand’s designs, more mature and precious, play with gears and intricate mechanisms bringing to light what is usually hidden. That sense of mystery, while challenging the fine line between real and surreal, also returns in the brand’s new store, located in the heart of Rome on Via di Monserrato, a stone’s throw from the iconic Campo dei Fiori square. Focused on a palette of mint green matched with deep blue and gold touches, the brand’s only freestanding store features walls covered with mirrors making the space looking much larger and airy. The brand’s creations are showcased in glass boxes, which seem to be floating in the air, adding a sense of magic to the environment.
During a rainy day in Rome, Delettrez Fendi welcomed WWD into her boutique and discussed how she elevated her jewelry line and why studying theater and custom design is actually helping her to understand her customers’ wishes.
WWD: Let’s start with the new store…
Delfina Delettrez Fendi: I’m very happy with this new store. The street is so authentic and elegant. I always opt for locations that are far from shopping destinations. I think this makes the experience more precious because you really have to come here and find it.
WWD: How did you create the interiors?
D.D.F.: Although I collaborate with architects, the shops really reflect my vision. I’m really satisfied with the result here, because the store precisely reflects our product offering. For example, the design of the displays located on the walls where glass seems to levitate over mirrors is a nod to the invisible gem settings on my rings.
WWD: The black hand-shaped displays are really interesting with their surreal touch.
D.D.F.: Jewelry is deeply interconnected with the body and it’s hard to understand a piece of jewelry if you don’t see it worn by someone, you don’t understand the proportions. That’s the reason we created these sculptures of hands.
WWD: What were the elements you had in mind for the store right from the start?
D.D.F.: It definitely had to be essential and clean. We used iron, steel and brass, materials reflecting the mechanical spirit I’m injecting in my most recent collections. I’m intrigued by mechanical inventions and I really enjoy creating jewels, where elements, for example pearls, are not only decorative but have a specific function. I’m totally fascinated by gears and mechanisms.
WWD: How did your style evolve over the years?
D.D.F.: In the past 12 years my style changed a lot but there are elements that of course are still there. When I started I had fun breaking rules, not to be intentionally rebellious, but because I didn’t know the rules of jewelry. I used to have a very instinctive approach. I was not aware that, for example, glazing gold and setting diamonds in silver were practices going against the rules of the goldsmith art. Then I embraced a less-is-more approach and the challenge of creating new and interesting shapes with less elements. I’m trying to bring everything to the essential, exalting the purity of gems and this is my way to show my respect to the industry. It’s actually a challenge because it’s harder to work with less. We restrained the materials we use to 18k gold, platinum, white diamonds, as well as a few gems including manganite and tsavorite, while we completely cut the use of semiprecious stones.
WWD: Do you create customized pieces for private clients?
D.D.F.: Yes and it’s exciting. And now having the store here, it will be much easier to establish one-on-one relationships and develop special projects for them.
WWD: What kind of special orders do you prefer?
D.D.F.: I really like to work on engagement rings, which I see as love tokens. I work with men and for them creating a jewel with me is a way of better understanding their woman. I was lucky enough to grow in a family of women and this helped me develop that type of sensibility which is needed to fully understand other women. However, what I always ask myself is: would I wear this? Before I founded my brand, I studied theater and custom design and this has been extremely useful to understand my clients and what they want to communicate with their jewels.
WWD: Business-wise, what’s your biggest market?
D.D.F.: Europe is the first market for the brand, with a focus on the U.K. and France, and is followed by the United States.
WWD: What is your current distribution model?
D.D.F.: While 40 percent of our sales are made online, we sell in 40 brick-and-mortar stores in the world. In the past, when I used to focus on just gold and enamel, the number of stores was double. I had great success in fashion stores. The decision to elevate the types of materials I use consequently implied a reduction in the number of the stores. The wholesale network is now very high-end and selective, including key retailers such as Dover Street Market, The Webster and Net-a-porter.
WWD: Do you sell to jewelry shops?
D.D.F.: I think the world of jewelry stores is evolving. But this needs to come naturally. I don’t think it makes sense to sell my collections in traditional stores which focus exclusively on classic products just to have extra clients. However, for example, in Poland, in Warsaw, there are new generations of jewelry stores with a more contemporary eye. We collaborate with some of them through Farfetch but I don’t want to speed things up.
WWD: Are you planning to expand your retail network?
D.D.F.: For the moment I’m happy with this store. I have always looked for a highly controllable and manageable growth. If I have to think to additional stores, I would love them to be small and flexible…but there is a time for everything. Right now, I’m so happy to have invested into a store in Rome. I think it makes sense with our path. I believe it’s a perfect calling card…it talks about us, our values. We are a Made in Rome brand, there is an artisanal thing about what we are and what we do.
WWD: Where would you open other stores?
D.D.F.: I really enjoy Tokyo. New York, also…but step by step.
WWD: What’s the price range of the collection in store?
D.D.F.: We have jewels with prices going from 350 euros to 250,000 euros. The fact that our range is so wide is very appreciated. The idea is that mother and daughter can shop in the same store.
WWD: What’s your creative process?
D.D.F.: Not having had a specific jewelry training, I have fun doing sketches, drawings and collages. Most of the times, things originate from the dialogues with my artisans. I cannot do technical sketches and the biggest challenge is to understand with them if an idea can become reality.
WWD: In 2016, you designed the Policromia watch for Fendi. Would you add timepieces to your jewelry line?
D.D.F.: Not really. Now I’d like more to work on furniture pieces.
WWD: Is this already a project or only an idea?
D.D.F.: Just an idea but I would like to do the same thing I do with jewelry on a larger scale.