“I am so happy to find my roots here in Italy after building my brand in the U.S.,” said Florence-born artist and designer Ippolita Rostagno.
Rostagno founded her brand in the U.S., launching her first pieces at Bergdorf Goodman and then expanding with a presence at main department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and building a cult following by word of mouth ranging from Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson to Cameron Diaz and Uma Thurman.
With a background in sculpture, Rostagno developed her first jewels using slabs of wax pressed on different parts of her body then gently pounded and transformed into hand-crafted gold pieces.
Mirroring her artistic experience and sensibility, the Milan boutique is more similar to an exhibition space than to a traditional jewelry store. In addition to her own bronze or glass sculptures, the store displays pieces from Rostagno’s personal collection, such as storied jewels by the late designer Bruno Martinazzi, or by French artist Pol Bury.
Covering 1,620 square feet on two levels, the store has an entrance also on Via Bigli, passing through a typical Milanese courtyard of the 19th-century Palazzo Gavazzi. Rostagno redesigned the space in collaboration with architect Gianluca Geraci emphasizing a play on lights and curved walls — a beautiful Murano glass chandelier one of the key elements.
The designer was adamant there should be no glass between the customer and the jewel displays, in an evolution of the “open sell” retail concept that removes traditional physical barriers, which “do not allow customers to emotionally interact with the jewels.”
Indeed, touch is a strong sense for Rostagno as she gave WWD a preview tour of the store, frequently holding up the jewels to assess the lightness and softness of the gold pieces, and the beauty of the items on both sides. “The back is as important as the front,” she said, also emphasizing how irregularities in the stones and the asymmetric cuts are qualities in her mind.
In 18-carat gold, the jewels are conceived to be easily worn on a daily basis, not only on special occasions, and bought by women for themselves.
“We see Italy as a key location for the expansion of the brand in Europe,” said chief executive officer Alberto D’Agnano. With a presence in the U.S. since 1999, the market “has been consolidated,” allowing now to “strategically open in Italy, with a focus on Milan.”
There are two existing Ippolita boutiques, on Madison Avenue in New York and on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the latter of which opened in November 2020.
The brand is also available online, which has seen a dramatic boost in sales throughout the pandemic. Price does not seem to be an issue as one of Ippolita’s best-sellers is a diamond ring retailing at $12,000, Rostagno noted.
A strong supporter of Italian craftsmanship, Rostagno in 2014 founded Artemest.com, a marketplace that promotes high-profile Italian artisanal products.