Rinascente: A Designer’s Paradise

There is nothing like the luxury and style one finds in Europe – especially Italy and France. Rooted in craftsmanship, unique designs are found everywhere. However, while one can find glamorous styles walking down endless cobblestoned streets of Rome, oversized shopping hubs are not to be found. I think of Le Bon Marché in Paris or Bergdorf’s in NYC, Harrods in London. Growing up in Westchester, where retail therapy was practically invented, I find a kind of cultural comfort in these vivid shopping palaces with modern styles and trends filling the spaces, each floor a new theme. Today, I found this kind of browsing haven in Rome’s newest Rinascente Tritone.

Let me clarify – this is not about consumption or acquisition. The act of browsing sparks new ideas and amplifies my sense of a designers’ collective unconscious. Appreciating layout, presentation, colors and flow – as well as object design – are all part of my creative research.

Paper, my weakness, on the -1 level of Rinascente Tritone. (All photos in this piece are mine.)

While small boutiques and long afternoons spent languidly perusing artisanal shops holds a place in my heart, there is nothing I cannot resist more than a new department store. This new iteration of the Italian luxury department store has echoes of its Milan location – especially its top floor eatery with views of the City. The Rinascente mall in Milan was one of my New York mini-paradises in Italy . Back when finding a pressed juice in Rome was a long hunt, I distinctly recall finding a juice bar on the top floor of the Milanese shopping fixture. (Now, juice bars are diffused in every corner of Rome – including the impressive Rinascente terrace.)

These awesome bags by Zanaletto.

Eight stories high, the flagship store has captured the essence of Rome and Italian design. Mimicking the flowing water of fountains found in the streets, small light installations reverberate on the walls. The architects cleverly created a subterranean installation of the archaeological artifacts that were dug up during its 11-year construction – as is often the case in this ancient town.

In fact, it’s this basement level that draws me the most – amidst the commercial art and industrial design. Among this well-curated blend of items,  I recently found some gorgeous inspiration: plates inspired by planetary surfaces (Cosmic Diner by Diesel for Seletti); trays that seem like handpainted portraits (iBride made in France); and gorgeous plexiglass-mounted photographs by various artists, reminiscent of my own “digital etchings” created for my NYC Iconics show.

Cosmic Diner.
A portrait on a tray in the foreground. The Hybrid collection by Selettiin the background.
Maximalist packaging inspo!

Rinascente is a kind of designer’s paradise in my eyes because of its step towards bringing modernity to the beautiful tradition of Rome. More than 800 luxury stores surround the blooming atrium in the middle, bringing Rome inside while preserving its history. The brilliant architects even incorporated an aqueduct system into the first floor from 19 BC.

You’re bound to catch me at Rinascente’s rooftop at lunch one of these days!