When I was planning my maiden voyage to Venice several months back, one of my most anticipated destinations was the grand palazzo of Dodie Rosekrans on the Grand Canal. Since viewing photos of the palazzo years ago, images of this magical location were burned into my mind. As my trip approached, I eagerly awaited this once fantasy becoming a reality. It happened that interior designer Hutton Wilkinson (who stays in Ms. Rosekrans guest room when visiting Venice) would be in town the same week and would not only let us into the palazzo, but was also arranging to provide a tour of the apartment and show us all that he designed with the late Tony Duquette. About a week prior to flying to Venice I had the chance to speak with Ms. Rosekrans about my upcoming trip and how I was just beyond speechless with what I was about to see. She said that Venice changed her life and it would do the same to mine. She said she remembered her first trip many years back and how it took her breathe away. Ms. Rosekrans was correct. I think that this is one of the reasons that I have kept this special post. It is rare that I am speechless- but the work of Tony Duquette, Hutton Wilkinson and Ms. Rosekrans truly left me without words; I’ve struggled with how to verbalize what I saw. I now why this project created a sensation at its unveiling for its sheer daring and originality.
You can’t miss the grand palazzo on the Grand Canal with its oversized Venetian flags flapping in the breeze. Upon our arrival on what seemed to be one of the hottest day in Venice (in the upper 90’s), the magic of the flags set the tone. Venetians like to say that Ms. Rosekrans hangs the flags out of respect - but Hutton says that they were hung for mere decoration and drama. Never mind the stories- I think that there is no argument that Ms. Rosekrans has become the unofficial queen of the city and has been embraced by the city for her work in cultural preservation. One of my highlights was how perched on Ms. Rosekrans desk was her Roledex, open to her favorite restaurants and bars in Venice. In this world of technology it was like a moment captured in time.
Who is Dodie Rosekrans, you ask?
Rosekrans was born Georgette Naify, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, in San Francisco. Her father, Michael Naify, created a theater chain that became United Artists. “Dodie” is an Americanized version of the Lebanese nickname her parents had given her, and it has stuck with her throughout her life. She studied art history at Mills College.
Her first husband was Edward Topham Jr. She moved to the suburbs of Atherton (about 30 minutes south of San Francisco) and raised three sons. Her husband died of a brain tumor, and later she married John Rosekrans. It was his second marriage, too. Friends say that they adored each other and that he encouraged her fashion adventures wholeheartedly. He was a toy company executive whose products included the Frisbee and Hula Hoop; he was also the grandson of sugar baron Adolph Spreckels (who along with his wife, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, founded the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco).
After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, she and her late husband led a successful $23.8 million campaign to raise funds for renovating and expanding the Legion of Honor, to which they contributed $5 million. The project included a $12.7 million seismic retrofit paid for by a city bond measure. The museum closed in 1992 and reopened in 1995.
Ms. Rosekrans is known around the world for her amazing style, which ranges from eclectic vintage '70s Yves Saint Laurent, Balmain, Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons and Harry Winston jewels. She helped to shape John Galliano’s career. Whether in Paris, Venice or San Francisco, the guest list typically includes members of society or the aristocracy, celebrities ranging from tattooed up-and-coming artists, and even her favorite salespeople at luxury boutiques. At a dinner a few years back with Nina Ricci, Rosekrands wore an Indian Mogul necklace of rubies and emerald, doubling the strands and tying them together with a ribbon from a Fauchon chocolate box.
CREDITS: History and facts taken from articles on Dodie Rosekrans from the San Francisco Chronicle (Caroline Zinko- January 2007) & Town and Country (Wendy Goodman)