Luisa Via Roma is more than a store, more than fashion haven… Luisa Via Roma is, in a word, transformative. It becomes a way of life for those who grow to know and love the store, and allows fashion lovers to directly interact with clothes in a fabulously fun way. I’ve been so intrigued by what I’ve seen and heard about the company, and the
website and blog are so well-designed and fun to browse. So when The Icon Concierge was offered a personal shopping experience with the famed retailer I was beyond thrilled! I visited Luisa the first day I arrived in the city for a sneak peak, and was blown away by the tantalizing displays filled with enormous Steiff stuffed animals (bears, deer, and penguins), antlers, and furs. I felt as if I’d stepped into a winter wonderland – a very glamorous winter wonderland. And that first impression was augmented by the fact that every outfit and accessory on display blends seamlessly with the decorations … the clothes, although there to be sold, are set up so intricately that Luisa Via Roma feels like a gallery or museum. I want to live there!
I later found out that Luisa is well-known for its intricate window treatments and displays, which change every few weeks – the store embodies the ephemeral nature of fashion in its frequent transformations, and is set up to showcase collections in the most artistic way possible.
The store is incredibly high-tech as well, and has digital art displays, dramatic lighting, and touch flat-screens that customers can use to browse the selections without walking around in a daze (it happens – the collection of incredibly beautiful fabrics and colors are overwhelming).
When I spoke to Camilla, she emphasized Luisa Via Roma’s interactive atmosphere, telling me that it is a place designed for customer service. And indeed this was true of my experience – all the staff, stylists, and buyers I met were very gracious and interested in answering my questions and showing me new pieces. When it came time for me to try on the clothes that had caught my eye, everyone was so genuinely excited to partake in styling me that the ambiance felt more party than shopping – but more on that in a bit!
Camilla first walked me through the store, which is set up throughout three levels: causal and youthful clothing downstairs, more high-fashion pieces on the main floor, and men’s upstairs.
There is also a beautiful café where people often come to meet with clients and conduct interviews, as well as a Luisa Via Roma suite where special guests are invited to stay and enjoy a full day or more of trying on new pieces. I met Ivan, the buyer for the jewelry collection, who showed me some incredibly cool Italian cuff bracelets with heavy, handmade metal flowers.
Upstairs I met the buyer for the men’s collection, Monica. She too was so enthusiastic and you can tell she loves her job. I asked everyone what their favorite pieces were and the response was always the diplomatic “Ohh … I don’t have a favorite.” I saw some of the Japanese designers for men and they were very high fashion – with very graceful lines.
Another highlight in the men’s section: the Tommy Hilfiger line of shoes exclusively designed for Luisa Via Roma! They’re handsomely-made, classic loafers and sneakers, and they feature the signature Luisa stripes. A designer creating an exclusive line forLuisa Via Roma is common, and the company collaborates with well-known fashion houses often.
But what I love about Luisa is that the store is not exclusive to these big designers, and opens its doors to newcomers as well. Currently, they’re featuring a line of beautiful boots by new designer Elena Iachi (see our exclusive interview with brand rep, Cristiano Paolini!), and Camilla told me that the store loves featuring new designers whose looks go well with the existing pieces. They have lots of clothes made locally in Italian companies, but of course maintain a diverse and international collection, overall.
As well as collaborating with fashion designers and labels, Luisa Via Roma also maintains close relations with fashion bloggers! This aspect of the company is what truly sets them apart from similar companies, because they are “open,” as Camilla puts it, to giving bloggers access to new collections (even before they’re released in the store!). Every six months for each new collection, Luisa has their “Firenze4Ever” event – they invite bloggers from all over the world to choose outfits, use Luisa’s professional photographers, and conduct photo shoots anywhere in the city to be featured on their blog. It generates great press for the store, of course, but is an ingenious and unique way to allow bloggers and their fans to interact with high fashion very personally.
My own shopping experience allowed me to try my hand at interpreting the Fall/Winter 2011 trends in my own way – but I did defer to the experts when it came to pairing certain items. I would point and say “I like that” and *poof* — there it was, in my size (which they knew just by looking at me). I tried to choose my outfits based on the prevalent trends in the collection, while maintaining my fairly conservative and classic personal style. The store is filled with bold, brightly colored wools and thick fabrics, mod, 60s cuts, there is fur and velvet everywhere, gold and gilded clothing, bold metallic cuffs and delicate gold pendants.
Fausto Puglisi colorblock dress, Valentino shoes, my own vintage earrings
My first outfit was the first dress I had noticed when I came into Luisa Via Roma a couple days before – a gorgeous Fausto Puglisi color-block dress. The thick material felt fabulous and the dress fit like a glove; the bright orange, soft purple, and hot pink made me feel so vibrant and happy as soon as I put it on. Finishing the look, the girls brought out a platform stiletto by Valentino with a silver stud embellishment – the shoe gives the outfit an understated edge, and I loved it!
Valentino Embellished Pumps with Triangle Point
The second look was inspired by a navy blue velvet pantsuit by Antonio Berardi that I loved at first sight. It made me think of Robert Plant from Led Zepplin, and because I have a love for 70s rock, I had to try it.
Balmain silk shirt, Velvet pants by Antonio Berardi
I was given a soft, tuxedo-inspired but femininely-draped white Balmain shirt to pair with the pants … once I put on the jacket I was in my element! I never in a million years would have thought to try full-body velvet, but this was just too fun. The tailoring on the jacket is perfect: cinched waist and pointed shoulder-pads; and, the pants elongate the leg beautifully. I love how this look is inspired by masculine lines, but has very feminine tailoring.
The third piece I tried on was a fun grey silk frock by Roksanda Ilincic. The draping in front falls beautifully on the body, and the back is delightful – a big bustle at the small of the back, with a wonderful exposed zipper.
First, they brought out a delicate pink gold and diamond globe necklace by a local Italian designer, and I considered pulling a Lindsay Lohan …
Italian local designer – pink gold and diamond globe necklace
and then, they revealed a green fur coat … That was the moment when I was truly transported to fantasy-land.
The coat is designed by Simonetta Ravizza, and is a classic 60s movie star piece – with flair! The green just pops and paired with the slate color of the dress, the outfit came together beautifully. I think that this was my favorite combination of the day!
I had such a fabulous experience at Luisa Via Roma. The company treats its clientele like gold, and helps customers decide what would look good on their figures while keeping them informed about current fashion trends.
The welcoming environment makes fashion less intimidating and more of a personal adventure, which is how it should be – accessible! And I suppose part of Luisa Via Roma’s success is that it is not just fashion they are furthering, but style … the buyers look to trends, but with a realistic eye, and help customers to develop a style and way of dressing based on personal image. They also emphasize “looks,” not brand names. Everything is mixed together and encourages creativity. I can’t think of any experience like it – Viva Luisa!
Written by Ashley N. Stefan, European Correspondent
Edited by Sade B. Strehlke, Editor-in-Chief