If you have seen the movie Dangerous Liaisons, visited the Hudson River Valley’s historic Vanderbilt Mansion, or coveted a vintage velvet-clad Bagonghi handbag by Roberta di Camerino, then you have experienced the glories of Rubelli. The Venice-based textile firm has been making an opulent impact on the world of style for more than a century and is now the subject of a seductive new book, Rubelli: A Story of Silk in Venice.
Lavished with reproductions of watercolors, drawings, paintings, and pattern-book extracts, as well as period photographs of the Rubelli clan—Lorenzo Rubelli, an impressively mustachioed former diplomat, purchased Gio. Battista Trapolin, a weaving company with roots in the 18th century, in 1889—the volume is a densely footnoted 220-page primer on the rich heritage of silk manufacturing in the Venetian archipelago. Author Irene Favaretto, an archaeology professor and great-granddaughter of Lorenzo Rubelli, traces the family-owned firm’s trajectory from early works such as a daisy-patterned velvet commissioned by Queen Margherita of Italy in 1902 to the promising photograph of a luxurious blue bedroom at the under-renovation Gritti Palace hotel, which is expected to reopen in Venice next year after its redecoration by Donghia Associates. (Rubelli Group, whose brands include Dominique Kieffer and Armani/Casa, purchased Donghia Inc. in 2005.)
The book offers one moment of impossible splendor after another, enriched with commentary from Rubelli admirers like Academy Award–winning costume designer James Acheson (Dangerous Liaisons) and AD100 interior designer Roger Thomas (who upholstered the Wynn Las Vegas in Rubelli fabrics). Topping it all off is an impassioned essay by trendspotter Lidewij Edelkoort, a Rubelli associate who founded the influential magazine Bloom, wherein company president Alessandro Favaretto Rubelli is described as “fearless as a metallic double weave … [and] as wise as his own decayed velvets.” It is a character study that might seem a bit purple in any other context, but given the opulence of Rubelli, Edelkoort’s swoon seems absolutely right.
Marsilio, $65; amazon.com