Fashion Benefaction: Luxury and Brand Heritage in the Eternal City


  • Stephanie Hagan University of Pennsylvania



In 2011, the exclusive Italian shoe and accessory brand Tod’s pledged €25 million towards the cleaning and restoration of the Colosseum. They were the first among several luxury fashion companies who have recently lent major sponsorship support to the restoration and upkeep of Roman monuments. The list of patrons grew longer after 2014, when Italy’s Ministry of Culture introduced the ‘Art Bonus’ programme. The act invited would-be benefactors to contribute to the restoration and maintenance of any one of dozens of archaeological sites, theatres and concert halls in the country, in exchange for a generous tax break. Fendi took on the Trevi Fountain and several other urban water features, as well as the Temple of Venus and Roma; Bulgari shouldered the bill for the refurbishment of the Spanish Steps and mosaics in the Baths of Caracalla. This patronage of iconic cultural heritage sites permits luxury fashion firms to centre their brand narratives and identities on Italy, monumentalise their reputation for good craftsmanship, cultivate exclusivity and create tensile and dynamic relationships to the past.