FLORENCE, Italy — Walking by the banks of the Arno river here, few would suspect what an imaginative, colorful and pop world lies behind the stately Renaissance palazzo housing the Enrico Coveri headquarters, whose frescoed rooms contrast with a stunning collection of contemporary art.
While Coveri has long passed on staging seasonal runway shows, the brand has continued to evolve under the lead of Silvana Coveri, sister of the late founder of the brand, and her son, artistic director Francesco Martini Coveri.
“We have continued to develop the brand in a natural way, offering clothes for special moments, and choosing the licensing model,” explained Martini Coveri. The company counts around 60 active licenses, and the designer proudly defended this business model, “the result of courageous choices and strategies.”
“Why not go the licensing way, if the business is solid and healthy?” contended Alessandro Maria Ferreri, chief executive officer and owner of The Style Gate consulting firm. “You create jobs for the production pipeline, and Francesco chose his own path without complying with the majority of brands. After all, fashion is a various constellation. Brands turn to a licensee for eyewear or fragrances to leverage the expertise in that segment. When working with specialists on different categories, you recognize that things are done better. You don’t lose control if there is intellectual honesty — and there are less headaches that go with this strategy, which has helped Coveri become a leader in innerwear, for example.”
“There are so many different ways to communicate to customers and the goal is to speak to those who are willing to understand, while maintaining our identity. We are not selling out,” said Martini Coveri.
This identity stands out loud and clear at the brand’s headquarters, which continue to house Coveri’s atelier and archives, where thousands of designs are tucked away.
Portraits by Andy Warhol of both the founder and his sister pepper the palazzo — which also comprises the family’s home — as do paintings of the Coveri logo, revisited by 100 artists in 1987 to mark the brand’s first decade in business, ranging from Mimmo Rotella to Antonio Recalcati. There are also several references to Enrico Coveri’s collaboration with Keith Haring.
The Galleria del Palazzo, inside the Coveri Palace, opened in 2004, and is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. In June 2019, during Pitti Uomo, Coveri presented “Seasons,” a mural in the court of Palazzo Coveri created by New York-based Chris Ellis, known artistically as Daze. This was the first time street art entered a Medicean palazzo and it was the first fresco that Daze created in a covered area.
The latest development for Coveri is a collaboration with Galateo & Friends, a company founded in 2002 in Arma di Taggia, Liguria, the heartland of the Taggiasca extra virgin olive oil production, by entrepreneur Marco Bonaldo.
Under the When Food Meets Fashion project, the capsule includes a chianti wine vinegar; a Taggiasca extra virgin olive oil; an extra virgin olive oil with basil; a chili oil, and Sicilian salt, as well as two small porcelain dipping dishes, all featuring colorful Coveri prints, and available with a sophisticated gift box.
“The idea is to seek brands that have a very recognizable aesthetic and that are somehow part of fashion’s collective memory,” said Ferreri, who has long worked with Bonaldo on strategies and negotiations. “It doesn’t matter if the brand is small or big, famous or niche, Marco and I are in constant search of beauty and in the case of Enrico Coveri, we really feel we have selected an aesthetic memory that is really very strong and that still has enormous potential.”
A key word is “friends” for the brand, or the numerous talents who have personalized the olive oil bottles for Bonaldo, ranging from Carla Sozzani and Paola Navone to Tricia Guild, Jacqueline Morabito, Antonio Marras, Mary Katrantzou and Sam Baron. Bonaldo’s gastronomic range is available at Michelin-starred restaurants globally, from Alain Ducasse to Bottura, Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park to Beck’s Pergola, and at Palazzo Versace and the Armani and Bulgari hotels.
Indeed, Bonaldo underscored how the personal relationship is a foundation of the collaboration, which stemmed from the shared goal to create a gourmet line designed by Coveri, seeing the opportunity it offered, “leveraging the brand’s beautiful and joyful colors and prints. We transformed the fantasy into a concrete idea, but you have to have the right passion to do so and Francesco’s eyes immediately sparkled just talking about it.”
“We are always looking for different challenges and cross-pollination,” explained Martini Coveri. “We need to surround ourselves with something that gives us joy and it’s so easy to understand that good food gives us strong emotions and satisfies the senses — I would go as far as comparing art and good food. Oil is my own personal passion and I’ve taken olive oil sommelier courses.” The designer praised the “tradition, culture and craftsmanship” that fashion and food share.
Ferreri underscored Coveri’s strong brand awareness, despite the founder’s premature death in 1990.
After launching the Touche line in 1973, aged 21, the first women’s Enrico Coveri collection was presented during Paris Fashion Week in 1977 and the men’s collection was launched in 1981. Coveri shows were held in New York starting in 1996 and then in Milan from 1999. His first women’s fragrance, “Paillettes,” was launched in 1982, named after a specially crafted knit woven with large sequins. The likes of Liza Minnelli, Joan Collins, Sophia Loren, and Vanessa Redgrave wore his designs and the brand’s fun and colorful ads by Bill King and Oliviero Toscani were fronted by Eva Herzigová, Naomi Campbell, Iman, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer, among others.