MILAN — Frette is “a style of living,” according to chief executive officer Filippo Arnaboldi, who is accelerating the storied brand’s product diversification to reflect this view.
Founded in 1860, Frette linens have been featured on the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica or in the dining car of the Orient Express, to name a few, and catered to more than 500 European royal families.
The brand decorates private homes with its bed, bath, home decor, tabletop and outdoor offerings; luxury hotel properties, from the St. Regis and Four Seasons to the Ritz-Carlton, The Peninsula, the Mandarin Oriental, The Luxury Collection and Aman; private clubs, as the Yacht Club de Monaco or the Soho House, and spas, yachts and private jets.
“We are moving into the living room, the gym, the pool and our store windows reflect this shift from the bedroom into a more comprehensive offer,” Arnaboldi said.
Despite a surge in online shopping and an increased interest in home collections during the pandemic-induced lockdowns, Arnaboldi is still committed to brick-and-mortar. Last year, Frette stores opened in Seoul, Singapore and Manila.
Last month, the company opened its first store in 10 years in the U.S. — a key market for Frette — at Bal Harbour Shops in Florida. The 972-square-foot store, which carries everything from the brand’s signature Links embroidered bed and bath linens to cashmere, silk and suede home offerings will be officially feted next year.
A special capsule collection of bed and bath linens and home accessories exclusive to the Bal Harbour boutique marked the opening, defined by a palette in vivid cyclamen, moss green and a graphic, palm-inspired jacquard.
Modeled after the Frette Milan boutique blueprint, polished Afara wood and natural stone stand out as the main elements, adding warmth to the space with varying ivory hues and beige tones.
This original neutral color palette was enriched with green accents that pay tribute to the lush nature of the area’s native foliage. Natural raffia fibers were reimagined as wall coverings for furniture back panels along with linen wallpaper.
Rattan is also employed in furniture pieces that introduce an Italian touch to the boutique, as does a Venetian chandelier and an armchairs-and-chaise combo signed by Joe Colombo and Tito Agnoli dating back to 1964 that enhance the veranda style of the boutique’s central area. Brown Emperador marble highlights the store’s focal points.
The new boutique also features a dedicated bespoke area for customization and personalization, which Arnaboldi underscores is key today. Frette offers special services working directly with clients and interior designers. Online, the brand offers virtual consultancy.
There are 140 stores globally, of which 30 are directly operated. Next year, Frette will refurbish its New York store on Madison Avenue.
Revenues stand at 120 million euros and 50 percent of the total derives from the direct-to-consumer business, Arnaboldi said, while wholesale represents 20 percent of sales and the online channel 15 percent.
Arnaboldi touted the strength of the hotel and contract businesses. Ferragamo’s Portrait Hotel just opened in Milan and the executive said the bed linens and bathroom towels made specifically for the hotel can also be bought by the guests.
“Once you get used to this kind of quality, style and design, it’s difficult to give it up,” he said. “And this is a way to promote the experience — you can bring it home with you.” The same strategy is applied at other hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton and the St. Regis, for example. “Frette is selected because it’s a brand that is recognized as luxury for the home, and not as a mere supplier,” contended Arnaboldi.
Fashion brands, he said, understand the importance of being part of this segment, as a way to respond to the needs of their customers, who are drawn by their specific aesthetics. As an example, he cited Dior’s celebration of its annual Dioriviera beach collection last summer, when the French brand took over a portion of one of Italy’s most exclusive beach clubs, the Bagni Fiore near Portofino, customizing its bamboo-ornamented bar and lounge, as well as beach cabins and sunbeds, cushions and parasols, in a leaf-green version of its signature toile de Jouy pattern.
Arnaboldi also pointed to a significant new development for Frette, which has just won a bid to take over its storied headquarters in Concorezzo, a 30-minute drive from Milan. The site has been owned by the city since last year, after a series of legal and financial problems caused by the bankruptcy of Frette’s previous owner, Fin.part, two decades ago.
By the end of 2023 or early 2024, Frette will restructure the headquarters, introducing a museum dedicated to the textile industry. The storied archives will be placed on the first floor, open to the city by appointment or for special events. A courtyard and garden will house temporary installations. The site will be entrusted to Frette for 25 years, as per the city bid.
“Our heritage and the connection with the territory are at the center of everything we do,” Arnaboldi said. “It’s fundamental for us to return home and to be custodians of this piece of history is a privilege.”
Arnaboldi is eyeing a potential Frette expansion in the art de la table and other home accessories. A dream would be to open a Frette Hotel. “Why not? We have the experience,” he said with a smile.