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Check Out Fendi’s Revamped Dubai Flagship with a Tour By CEO Serge Brunschwig

Born in Rome, Fendi found in the UAE its most glorious home. CEO Serge Brunschwig takes Vogue Arabia on a private tour of the revamped Dubai address.

Photo: Courtesy of Fendi

It’s no secret that Dubai Mall, which holds the record for the biggest shopping destination in the world, is also one of the most luxurious style destinations. The competition is fierce, and to stand out, brands must invest in magnificent flagships, and the bigger the better. Initially opened in 2018, the Fendi boutique recently underwent a vertical expansion doubling in size, showcasing the brand’s long-lasting understanding of stunning interiors. Inspired by the grandeur of Rome, the city where Fendi was established in 1925, the two-floor boutique features geometric diagonal and glass windows emphasized by LED arches recalling those of Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, and displays an impressive selection of marble and furniture. One of the standouts is a round elevator, made of glass and gold specks, that allows access to three secret rooms connected by a corridor of dramatic velvet curtains. There you will find an area fully dedicated to furs, with different samples for coats made to order; the White Diamond Room, where the latest Couture collection is paired with boutique-exclusive pieces; and the Amber Room, unveiling, in a world premiere, a home decor and lifestyle accessories collection, a new category for Fendi. Signaling the importance of the Arab market, the boutique offers an array of outstanding (and very often customizable) pieces, that reflect the know-how of the brand in sourcing the best raw materials in fashion. Exhibit one: A bejeweled Peekaboo bag, crafted to celebrate the reopening of the UAE flagship, in camel-shaded crocodile skin with an 18ct gold finish and a closure with 12.9ct white diamonds. The Dubai boutique is also the first location worldwide where Fendi is presenting fine jewelry.

Serge Brunschwig. Photo: Courtesy of Fendi

CEO Serge Brunschwig, who joined Fendi in 2018 after stints at Christian Dior Couture, Louis Vuitton, and Celine, reveals more.

You are celebrating five years as the chairman and CEO of Fendi. How does it feel to start this cycle with this new flagship?
It feels very symbolic, since I was here four years ago for the opening of the initial boutique, with only one floor. And four years later, I’m back!  This boutique is two times the size, it is very luxurious, with three VIP rooms… It has all the ingredients of modern luxury. We have also grown as a brand; we are producing more beautiful objects, we have the best talent joining us. It is all quite exciting and shows that we are probably doing things right.

There are new categories being presented worldwide in this boutique. What does that say about the importance of the Middle East for Fendi?
I think there is a natural fit between Fendi and the region. We share a sense of luxury, refinement, and family. There is no place in the world where family has the same importance and appreciation. I believe that the Middle East also understands fur, jewelry, and exotic materials. This is key for us, as the creativity of Fendi is expressed many times through the materials we source. Just look at the baguette! There are hundreds of versions, but they are all so different due to the extraordinary material creativity.

Photo: Courtesy of Fendi

Speaking of raw materials, and in this case a controversial one, will Fendi continue to work with fur in the future?
Fur will have a long and prosperous future in Fendi for two reasons. Firstly, I’m all for freedom. If people want to buy, they’re welcome; if they don’t want to buy, they’re also welcome. Secondly, I support Italian craftsmanship. If you visit our factories, you will see people of all generations, and I’m responsible for their future. I also want to make sure that they can continue to express their art. Having said this, we are doing a lot of research on materials, applying our craftsmanship on fur to natural materials, to create a similar look and feel. When you are in the boutique you can go for mink, for shearling, or for cashmere transformed by our extraordinary talents into something like fur. Everyone is happy and will continue like this.

Silvia and Delfinna Fendi are still very present in the business, as artistic directors, even though the family brand was bought by LVMH in 2000. Do you see this as a challenge or an opportunity?
We are very lucky. I think that what makes the brand so special is that there is somebody like Silvia and her daughter Delfina, who are so passionate about the legacy. And they are not with us for money, they do it for passion. Silvia once told me, “This is my name, so it’s my life. I’ll do whatever I can to pass on to the next generation what I received from my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, and Karl Lagerfeld [Fendi creative director for 54 years]. When you start working at Fendi, you really feel like you are entering a family. This is why the LVMH group – which is also a family conglomerate – is the perfect fit for this family brand. The company has been successful in continuing and protecting family stories. Look at Fendi now: it is 10 times bigger than when it was purchased, everything is made in Italy, we hire everyday Italians, and we have an extraordinary office in Rome – while the family is still involved.

Photo: Courtesy of Fendi

What was your highlight of 2022?
I’m proud of the two factories we recently opened. The first one is in the Tuscan hills, and completely integrates the lovely landscape. For instance, our roof is a garden, with flowers and small trees. And under, there’s an amazing modern factory. We opened a second factory dedicated to shoes, with a beautiful metallic facade. These are important investments at the heart of the brand. I’m also proud of our sense of continuity. We are and always will be artisans. Of course, with all the publicity around Fendi, things change nature, but at the end of the day, we are craftsmen making beautiful objects for our customers.

Although Fendi is a very artisanal and patrimony brand, we can feel a shift in the communication towards a younger audience. How do you safeguard the values of the brand while speaking to a different customer?
The success of a brand depends on this continuity. If you look to the past, we didn’t call the young generation of 50 years ago Gen Z, but there was also a young audience that you had to understand and communicate with. It is very important to understand how the brand can reinvent itself, so we can talk to the customer of today and tomorrow. And how does this happen? This is the essential role of the creative director, who, better than anyone, will translate the mood of the times into objects. His inspiration is indispensable.

Photo: Courtesy of Fendi

The baguette just celebrated 25 years with an amazing show and campaign. Are you happy with all that was achieved?
It was an extraordinary tribute to Fendi, and we need to thank Kim Jones for that. You can feel his love for the Fendi brand, the Fendi family, and the Fendi woman. He understood completely this icon of the brand and created a baguette for the new generation. I love how he literally places the bag everywhere, even in pockets. It was a fantastic show.

Recently Fendi entered the world of NFTs, which is quite interesting for a brand so attached to creating “real” products that you can touch and feel. What is your view on this?
We use all our communications tools, and I appreciate that this area will be a talking point for a certain audience. But for me, people want real products. I don’t think we are going to sell only objects that don’t exist. Let’s see what happens.

Originally published in the February 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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