FORNARINA’S NEW ARENA
A “BIG WHITE BOX” OF A BOUTIQUE SERVES AS THE CANVAS ON WHICH THE ITALIAN SPORTSWEAR BRAND IS SET TO SPLASH ITS FASHIONS.
Byline: Joshua Greene
Team collaboration is how funky Italian sportswear brand Fornarina created its first U.S. flagship and West Coast showroom here, which opened its doors this past August along the upscale end of Melrose Avenue west of Fairfax, known as Melrose Heights.
The store’s interior plan originated from its counterpart in Milan. Fornarina’s in-house image team produces everything from business cards to ad campaigns and employs two full-time architects.
While neighbors such as Miu Miu and Costume National convey a serious approach to fashion with their austere gallery-like environments, Fornarina looks festive by comparison with its changing use of bold color to express the moods of new collections.
“What was important was to have something high tech, but not [something] that would take away from what we’re showing, which is the clothes,” said Antonio Gnocchini, who migrated from the family-run headquarters in Milan to oversee the smooth development of Fornari USA.
“We wanted to make sure it’s the colors of each collection that come out in the store. White walls and a high tech theme allow us to adjust to the new line every six months,” he added.
While the store is housed in an early Thirties Art Deco building, a glass facade gives it a very modern feel. The facade also ensures that merchandise is easily visible to drivers. The transparency can prove challenging when it comes to constructing displays, said Mandy Elledge, retail sales director, who says she fears “looking disorganized” during window changeovers.
“I’m very anti-mannequin, so we are always coming up with different ways of displaying the clothes in the windows. Right now, we’re using metal wires to string the clothes.”
So that window displays stand out, she often chooses tops, bottoms and accessories in the same colors.
Inside the store, platform boots and gummy-soled trainers are displayed on a back-lit wall, or inside cut-outs in towering frosted-plastic pillars. Trendy sweaters and T-shirts are neatly folded on a glass-topped brushed-metal table.
Merchandise is organized chromatically. Much of it hangs on freestanding custom-made racks that can be moved easily around the 1,500-square-foot space.
A 12-foot-long TV screen in the heart of the store pulsates 24 hours a day with music videos, Japanimation and Fornarina runway footage.
The roof is an exposed wood boathouse-style ceiling, which the company decided to embrace rather than redo.
“Coming from Italy, I’ve never seen anything like it. So we decided to keep it as a part of the culture here,” Gnocchini said.
Fornarina has long mixed traditional and modern aspects in its stores. In Brescia, outside Milan, the boutique was converted from a 2000-year-old house.
A small hallway leads to the showroom, where buyers, stylists and celebrities can preview collections.
“We wanted to keep the showroom and the boutique under the same roof so they communicated the same idea,” Gnocchini said.
Owner Lino Fornari cultivates creativity among all areas of the company, encouraging his staff to offer new ideas.
“It isn’t easy to communicate with an outside agency or architect,” stated Gnocchini. “Fornarina is very concerned with keeping every detail of our image under control, and we do everything ourselves.”