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Small is bellissima: Rome’s best independent boutiques for fashion and accessories

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Since, well, forever, Rome, the Eternal City, has been home to craftspeople who make beautiful, sought-after things. Its expertise in creating elaborate jewellery and fashionable clothing can be traced back to the days of the empire. 

In the 20th century, an exalted handful of artisans — stars such as Valentino Garavani, Elsa Schiaparelli and the five Fendi sisters — also made, and maintained, Rome’s status as a capital of international style. 

But real Roman retail lies largely beyond big-name fashion. The best of the bunch tend to be the small, independent shopfronts and ateliers offering handmade collectibles that you won’t find on Mount Street or Madison Avenue. Rather conveniently, many of Rome’s finest such purveyors are on, or within easy striking distance of, one of two centro storico arteries that have recently emerged as epicentres of one-off style: the Via di Monserrato and the Via dell’Oca. Below is my list of go-to shops and designers for fashion and accessories — the one I share with visiting friends who are keen to head home with a sui generis Roman treasure or two. (And for those who will miss the Italian capital in person this year — all ship internationally too.)

Fashion

L’Archivio di Monserrato

Via di Monserrato 150, 00186 ROME

  • Good for: bragging rights; no one will be wearing what you’re wearing

  • Not so good for: gents, alas — unless they’re avid textiles collectors (or gift shopping). It’s pretty much about women’s apparel here

  • FYI: the framed works on paper lining the boutique’s walls — all for sale — are by Twombly’s ex, Alessandro, son of Cy. (Website; Directions. For online shopping contact atelier@soledadtwombly.com)

At L’Archivio di Monserrato, Soledad Twombly’s vibrant fashion designs . . .
At L’Archivio di Monserrato, Soledad Twombly’s vibrant fashion designs . . .
. . . sit alongside totes, tableware and textiles
. . . sit alongside totes, tableware and textiles

Soledad Twombly makes one of the city’s more dazzling style statements at L’Archivio di Monserrato. There is a smattering of glass- and tableware, woven and leather totes and clutches, kimonos and suzanis (large, hand-embroidered textiles), and the odd pair of vintage Manolos in pristine condition. But it’s Twombly’s own fashion designs — evoking elements of Hermès and Stella McCartney, but via richer tones — that pack the most punch. Fine silks and wools take the shape of classic trousers and fitted blouses, capes and sweeping midi-length coats. 

Giuliva Heritage

  • Good for: classic style, and especially good for women who like carrying off menswear styling 

  • Not so good for: ruffles, frills — dresses, really. Fans of Dolce & Gabbana’s feminine frocks, for example, may not jive with the energy here

  • FYI: the brand’s star is on the rise; witness the recent collaboration with H&M (Website)

Margherita Cardelli and Gerardo Cavaliere modelling two looks from one of their recent collections
Margherita Cardelli and Gerardo Cavaliere modelling two looks from one of their recent collections
The husband-and-wife duo’s aesthetic is all about classic fits and ultra-fine textiles
The husband-and-wife duo’s aesthetic is all about classic fits and ultrafine textiles

In 2017, husband and wife Gerardo Cavaliere and Margherita Cardelli launched Giuliva Heritage, a men’s and women’s line born of Cavaliere’s original Neapolitan tailoring business, Sartoria Giuliva. They are all about classic fits, ultrafine textiles and careful detailing; the vibe, for men and women alike, is “I inherited this blazer/trench/pair of summer wool trousers from my aristo uncle”. There’s something deliciously 1980s Ralph Lauren about it all (with — caveat emptor — Purple Label prices).

Atelier Bomba

Via dell’Oca 39, 00186 Rome

  • Good for: sleek, austere style with serious Made in Rome bona fides

  • Not good for: dandies and girly-girls — frippery doesn’t cross the threshold here

  • FYI: co-owner Michele Am Russo works as an on-site tailor who might fit your trench, blazer or signature Bomba trousers for you (Website; Directions)

Everything at Atelier Bomba is created on site from vintage fabrics
Everything at Atelier Bomba is created on site from vintage fabrics
Many of the 40-year-old label’s pieces have become collector’s items
Many of the 40-year-old label’s pieces have become collector’s items

Founded by Cristina Bomba and now run by her children Caterina Nelli and Michele Am Russo, Atelier Bomba has been quietly making impeccably tailored separates from meticulously sourced vintage fabrics for 40 years — a neat nod to both an elegant aesthetic and an interest in sustainability. All are crafted on site in an old-world, drawer-lined shop, with many now collector’s items among a cohort of stylish women and men worldwide. 

Roi du Lac

Piazza di Pasquino 76, 00186 Rome 

  • Good for: a dose of zany, flâneur-like zing (with beautifully flattering fits)

  • Not good for: the colour averse. This is see-and-be-seen style

  • FYI: there are ceramic votives and throw pillows as well, if colour at home is what you’re after (Website; Directions)

Flamboyant colours and motifs are the hallmarks of Roi du Lac
Flamboyant colours and motifs are the hallmarks of Roi du Lac fashion
The Roman brand also offers equally vivid homeware
The Scots-Italian brand also makes equally vivid homeware

At the other end of the aesthetics spectrum is cult Roman brand Roi du Lac, founded in 2016. The flamboyant silk prints designed by Scots-Italian proprietors Marco Kinloch and Antea Brugnoni Alliata (replete with colours and menagerie motifs that make Gucci’s Alessandro Michele look tame) are shaped into pussy-bow or scarf-neck blouses and dresses for women, dress shirts, bowling shirts and pocket squares for men, and natty slacks and trousers for both sexes.

Accessories

Maison Halaby 

Via del Monserrato 21, 00186 Rome

  • Good for: truly unique booty. No single piece is exactly the replicate of any other

  • Not so good for: anyone in a hurry. This little maison is about the experience, and shared appreciation of beauty, as much as it is the takeaway

  • FYI: designer Gilbert Halaby is a crack pâtissier; there are almost always Lebanese sweets and coffee on his counter — and sometimes champagne (Website; Directions)

Designer Gilbert Halaby outside his Via di Monserrato boutique
The store specialises in bags crafted by leather artisans, silk foulards and vintage treasures

In 2017, Lebanese designer Gilbert Halaby opened Maison Halaby on the Via di Monserrato. Beyond his beautiful clutches and totes — all made to order by leather artisans in Parma and favoured by princesses of the Hollywood, Park Avenue and titled varieties — he sells one-off jewels and watercolours, a small collection of silk foulards bearing his drawn designs, and vintage treasures such as wind-up clocks and crystal perfume dispensers sourced across Italy and beyond. Most days he can be found reading philosophy and listening to Chopin between salon-like client visits.

Patrizia Fabri

Via dell’Oca 34, 00186 Rome 

  • Good for: hats with clean-lined but adventurous shapes in traditional materials

  • Not so good for: designer-goods affirmation — Fabri is still fairly strictly for those in the know 

  • FYI: her workshop is lined with antique head-shaped walnut hat blocks; they’re works of art in themselves, though sadly not for sale. (Website; Directions)

Patrizia Fabri’s Via dell’Oca showroom
Patrizia Fabri’s Via dell’Oca showroom
The milliner’s workshop is lined with antique walnut hat blocks
The milliner’s workshop is lined with antique walnut hat blocks

Patrizia Fabri is a milliner’s milliner, as opposed to a fashion designer who does hats on the side. Much of her stock is fashioned from pristine lots of vintage woven straw she has acquired over the years; the designs themselves range from Jacquemus-esque attention getters — think brims that spill over shoulders and wildly coloured bands of grosgrain — to sleek unisex coal-grey and sable-brown felt fedoras. (My adornment-free, wide-brimmed Panama elicited at least half a dozen “Where did you get that?”s over the summer.)

The all-star

Chez Dede

Via di Monserrato 35, 00183 Rome

  • Good for: small-batch editions that showcase best-in-class Italian eccellenze

  • Not so good for: trend hounds — Chez Dede style is built to last, and as such is totally outside of fashion

  • FYI: co-owner Andrea Ferolla takes private commissions for his inimitable artwork. (Website; Directions)

Chez Dede’s range of bags has acquired a cult following
Chez Dede’s range of bags has acquired a cult following
The boutique is a ‘singular hybrid of Italian, French and international references . . . with an unmistakably Roman core’
The boutique is a ‘singular hybrid of Italian, French and international references . . . with an unmistakably Roman core’

It’s safe to say that when Andrea Ferolla and Daria Reina (authors of Assouline’s runaway-success tome Italian Chic) opened Chez Dede in 2015, they altered the retail landscape of the city. The large boutique — a double shopfront on the Via di Monserrato — is a singular hybrid of Italian, French and international references and influences, but with an unmistakably Roman core. Ferolla made his bones as a fashion illustrator and Reina as a creative director, so they know beautiful things and quality artisanship. Here they curate a very select edit of designers and makers who hail from as far afield as Paris (Astier de Villatte), New York (John Derian) and Japan (Camoshita).

But you should come for the trove of glorious things signed Chez Dede: the canvas and leather bags and totes, which have achieved major cult status across multiple time zones; the silk and cashmere scarves printed with Ferolla’s illustrations (the ruins of Villa Pamphili, or a déshabillée young miss leaning out a window); the notebooks, the clutches, the tiny table lamps with hand-painted shades, and more. And Reina’s limited-edition womenswear — cotton blouses and smocks, capes, long wrap skirts — is pure elegance. 

@mariashollenbarger

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Global house prices: Raising the roof

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Global house prices: Raising the roof



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Missing Belarus activist found hanged in Kyiv park

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Belarus updates

A Belarusian opposition activist has been found hanged from a tree in a park near his home in Ukraine, a day after he was reported missing. Local police said his death could have been made to look like suicide.

Vitaly Shishov, who led the Kyiv-based organisation Belarusian House, which helps Belarusians fleeing persecution find their feet in Ukraine, had been reported missing by his partner on Monday after not returning from a run.

Shishov’s death follows weeks of increased pressure in Belarus by authorities against civil society activists and independent media as part of what the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko has called a “mopping-up operation” of “bandits and foreign agents”.

Many Belarusians have fled the country since Lukashenko launched a brutal crackdown last summer after nationwide protests erupted following his disputed victory in presidential elections. About 35,000 people have been arrested in Belarus and more than 150,000 are thought to have crossed into neighbouring Ukraine.

Franak Viacorka, an aide to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who met UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday in London, said Shishov’s death was “absolutely shocking and unexpected to all of us”.

“He [Shishov] and his friends helped people who were moving to Ukraine,” Viacorka told the Financial Times. “They were very helpful, especially for those who have just arrived and didn’t know what to do.”

Viacorka said many activists living in Ukraine, such as Shishov who fled Belarus in 2020, had “complained about possibly being followed, and receiving threats”.

Kyiv park where Vitaly Shyshov’s body was found
The Kyiv park where Vitaly Shishov’s body was found after he failed to return home following a run © Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Downing Street said that after meeting Tsikhanouskaya, Johnson condemned the Lukashenko regime’s severe human rights violations. “The UK stands in solidarity of the people of Belarus and will continue to take action to support them,” a spokesperson said.

Ukrainian police have now launched a criminal case for the suspected murder of Shishov, including the possibility of “murder disguised as suicide”.

Yuriy Shchutsko, an acquaintance and fellow Belarus refugee who found Shishov’s body, ruled out suicide, pointing out that Shishov’s nose was broken.

“I suspect this was the action of the [Belarus] KGB . . . we knew they were hunting for us,” he told Ukrainian television.

Ihor Klymenko, head of the National Police of Ukraine, subsequently said Shishov’s body had what appeared to be “torn tissue” on his nose and other wounds, but stressed it would be up to medical examiners to determine if these were caused by beatings or the result of suicide.

There was no immediate comment from Lukashenko or his administration.

Belarusian House said: “There is no doubt that this is an operation planned by the Chekists [the Belarusian KGB] to eliminate someone truly dangerous for the regime.

“Vitalik was under surveillance,” it added. “We were repeatedly warned by both local sources and our people in the Republic of Belarus about all kinds of provocations up to kidnapping and liquidation.”

Adding to the swirl of attention on Belarus this week, Tokyo Olympics sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya on Monday took refuge in Poland’s embassy after alleging she had been taken to the airport against her will, having criticised her Belarusian coaches.

The athlete has said she feared punishment if she went back to Belarus but has so far declined to link her problems to the country’s divisions.

Shishov’s death comes five years after Pavel Sheremet, a prominent Belarus-born opposition figure and journalist, was killed in an improvised bomb explosion in downtown Kyiv while driving to work at a local radio station. Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994.

Ukrainian authorities at first suggested Belarusian or Russian security services could have been involved in the hit, as Sheremet was close to opposition movements in Russia as well.

Instead, officials charged three Ukrainian volunteers who supported war efforts against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — although they steadfastly denied involvement and authorities were unable to provide a motive in what has been widely described as a flimsy case.

Additional reporting by Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in London



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EU pledges aid to Lithuania to combat illegal migration from Belarus

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EU immigration updates

In the latest sign of deteriorating relations between the EU and Belarus, Brussels has promised extra financial aid and increased diplomatic heft to help Lithuania tackle a migrant crisis that it blames on neighbouring Belarus and its dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Lithuania detained 287 illegal migrants on Sunday, more than it did in the entirety of 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined, the vast majority of them Iraqis who had flown to Belarus’s capital Minsk before heading north to cross into the EU state. Almost 4,000 migrants have been detained this year, compared with 81 for the whole of 2020. 

“What we are facing is an aggressive act from the Lukashenko regime designed to provoke,” Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs told reporters on Monday after talks with Lithuania’s prime minister Ingrida Simonyte. “The situation is getting worse and deteriorating . . . There is no free access to EU territory.”

The EU imposed sweeping sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime in June, after he fraudulently claimed victory in last year’s presidential election and then led a brutal campaign to violently suppress protesters and jail political opponents. Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994.

The rising concern over the migrant crossings, which EU officials say is a campaign co-ordinated by Lukashenko’s administration, comes as one of the country’s athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympic Games sought refuge in Poland after team management attempted to fly her home against her will after she publicly criticised their actions.

Johansson said the EU would provide €10m-€12m of immediate emergency funding and would send a team of officials to the country to assess the requirements for longer-term financial assistance, including for extra border security and facilities to process those attempting to enter.

Simonyte said that Vilnuis would require “tens of millions of euros” by the end of the year if the number of people attempting to cross the border continued at the current pace.

Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told the Financial Times in June that Belarus was “weaponising” illegal immigration to put pressure on the Baltic country over its housing of several opposition leaders. Since then, the flow of illegal immigrants from Iraq, Syria, and several African countries has increased sharply.

Iraqi diplomats visited Vilnius at the end of last week after Lithuania’s foreign minister flew to Baghdad in mid-July. Johannson said on Monday that EU diplomats were engaged in “intensive contacts” with Iraqi officials, which she said were “more constructive than we had hoped”.

State carrier Iraqi Airways offers flights from four Iraqi airports to Minsk, according to its website. Former Estonian president Toomas Ilves suggested on Twitter that the EU could cut its aid to Iraq “immediately until they stop these flights”.

Speaking at the border with Belarus on Monday, Johansson added that the tents provided by Lithuania were unsuitable for families. Lithuania’s interior minister Agne Bilotaite said she hoped the number of illegal migrants would subside in the coming months but that Vilnius was planning to build some housing to accommodate them over the upcoming winter.



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