Wednesday, June 17
Back to Venice again (I wish - just going back in time a few weeks to
share another of the highlights (no...not my hair) of the trip to
We had the greatest privilege to have special time with Maury Riad (who
runs Fortuny with his brother Mickey) who took the time out of his busy
schedule when we first arrived to Venice to take us to some of his
favorite local places. We were treated to some of the best secrets down
hidden alleys of Venice. Our first stop was a wonderful wine bar where
we had a wonderful small production processco and fresh baby artichokes.
We then walked and walked and walked (and I am not sure I could ever
find this restaurant
again) to a truly local restaurant that specializes some of the best
seafood that I have ever had. Many bottles of wine were enjoyed at this
amazing spot. No menus - the waiter just recited the suggestions from
the chef. The razor clams were out of this world - as was the carpaccio
of local variety of fish.
I feel incredibly lucky as Maury invited us to the Fortuny factory for a
behind the scenes tour that ended with a candlelight dinner outside in
the garden. The evening was truly magical - I will never forget it as
long as I live.
Maury, his wife Mia and their adorable son Matthew were charming hosts
on this truly fabulous night.
We can't wait for them to come to San Francisco to visit us and so that
we can return the hospitality that they showed to us. Pebble Beach here
we come, Maury!
We were lucky to also have two experts traveling with us for our evening
at Fortuny - Avner Lapovsky, co-owner of the Sloan Miyasato showroom in
San Francisco (which sells Fortuny); and Kathleen Taylor, also from San
Francisco, an antique fabric specialist and owner of the Lotus
Collection in the Jackson Square district of San Francisco. Kathleen
brought with her a 3 paneled piece of Fortuny circa 1920 with a caramel
colored pattern (Dandelion). This was definitely a highlight. You can
find more about these pieces on her website as they are for sale and
would really be a fantastic purchase for any Fortuny collector.
Fortuny is loved by designers around the world but here is a little bit
more of this history from my extra special trip:
Built on the property of an ancient convent, long since closed by
Napoleon, the Fortuny factory on the island of Giudeca opened in 1922.
Fortuny purchased the land in 1919 for Giancarlo Stucky, a close friend
and owner of a wheat mill next door. Fortuny required this larger space
to house the machines he invented for the production of his textiles.
To fulfill his vision, he had the factory built to his precise
specifications. Still operating today, its is a monumental example of
Mariano Fortuny's lasting and enterprising spirit.
Many have enjoyed the beautiful factory grounds on Giudecca, at Countess
Gozzi's invitation. She was a generous host, driven by a passion to
share the Fortuny phenomenon. Although the factory itself allows no
visitors, maintaining and relying on Mariano Fortuny's secrets.
The Fortuny Textile Legacy:
Mariano Fortuny first produced his legendary textiles in the early
Incredibly durable, with an almost mystical appearance, they soon became
widely popular due to their inimitable beauty and versatility.
Fifteenth century Florence, seventieth century Venice, Persia, Asia,
South America, Egypt, China and Greece: these themes all inspired
Fortuny's textiles. He used his own formulations of dyes and pigments
based on the ancient techniques of the masters, giving his material the
appearance of the authentic antiquity. Internationally, his peers
applauded Fortuny's work as transcending description, calling it
inexpressible in any language.
Fortuny's pieces were so mystifying that unfounded rumors of sorcery and
magic began to circulate.
In 1927, American interior decorator Elsie McNeill (later Elsie McNeill
Lee, then Countess Elsie Lee Gozzi) was mesmerized by the beauty of
Fortuny's fabrics upon viewing them in Paris. Realizing that these
fabrics could be marketed for private residences through decorators and
designer, she went to Venice to meet the great artist. Ms. McNeill
convinced him of her vision, soon becoming his close confidante and sole
distributor of his fabrics and dresses in the Unite States at 509
The factory on Giudecca lay dormant for a brief period after Mariano
Fortuny's death. On Henriette Fortuny's insistence, Elise McNeill Lee
filled Fortuny's absence as master of operations. She was the only
person with the intimate knowledge of the major aspects of the business-
creative, technical, and commercial. Her wondrous efforts and
unrelenting insistence on preserving the high level of Fortunys
standards helped endure that factory operations would continue for
generations after her death.
Over the course of her highly successful career, Elsie confided in her
New York lawyer, Maged Riad who was the only person that she trusted to
carry on the traditions. Although Riad acquired the company in 198, it
wasn't until the countess' death in 1994 that he felt the responsibility
to preserve the mystic name of Fortuny. His sons Mickey and Maury,
continue the legacy.
Fortuny's intricate process and production methods, unduplicated
elsewhere, have always remained secret within the island factory's
walls. This incredible and unique production remains intact, using the
same machines, and methods implemented by Fortuny himself nearly a
century ago. The result is exquisite, unparalleled fabric. Each piece
is a unique work of art.
With the proper care, Fortuny fabrics will last for generation, aging
like any fine antique.