In fashion, the name Fortuny is practically synonymous with gorgeous pleats and sumptuous fabrics, not to mention the city of Venice. That's where Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny was based and churned out his free-flowing Delphos dresses — and Isadora Duncan's infamous scarves — since launching in 1906. But did you know he was a lighting engineer, architect and inventor, too? With the new Fortuny y Madrazo exhibit at New York's Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, we spoke to the company co-owners Mickey and Maury Riad, who inherited the company from their lawyer dad (who, in turn, acquired it from his client and Fortuny friend Countess Elsie Lee Gozzi). They talked about its century-old legacy — the fabrics are still made in the same factory, on the same machines — and shared their insider travel tips to Venice.
What's new in Fortuny prints?Mickey Riad: We've introduced interesting new prints and color combinations (see above) that continue to strike an emotional chord. Patented mosaic tiles from our fabrics. And my brother and I started Rounded Corners, a cataloging app. People don't realize that Mariano really loved and embraced technology — he invented the dimmer switch and a propeller for motor boats, reinvented theater lights and created his own photographic paper.
Maury Riad: We originally created the app for the Fortuny collection — so the true impact and colors of the fabrics could be reflected properly across everyone's screen — and now work with interior designers Michael S. Smith and Malcolm James Kutner. We're proud to say that our company extends beyond the fabrics like his did.
True that no one's recreated his pleating technique?Mickey Riad: Well, there are people who have attempted his pleats, like Issey Miyake and Mary McFadden, but no one's been able to achieve the same flow and depth of color. The company has not produced them since he passed away.
First-time visitors to Venice should see…Mickey Riad: The Fortuny factory showroom — we have this incredible garden with a white marble pool the Countess built in the Fifties — it's one of the private gardens of Venice. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The biennale exhibitions every October. As far as squares are concerned, I love Campo Santa Margherita. And you're going to see something cool in pretty much any church you walk into.
Secret only an insider would know…Maury Riad: Go to the Fondamente Nuove and take a water bus to the vegetable island Sant’Erasmo at sunset. Sometimes riding back and forth on the boat — you won't see a single tourist — is absolutely isolating and beautiful.
Mickey Riad: There's a local price and a tourist price pretty much everywhere you go. And there's no way to haggle if you're not a local. They know.
Above print from the Fortuny Colourismo collection