Fashion Restoration: Diesel Sponsors Venice’s Ponte di Rialto

Ponte di Rialto

With his announcement of a 5.5 million euro gift to restore Venice’s iconic Ponte di Rialto bridge, Diesel founder Renzo Rosso has become only the latest fashion force to preserve a piece of European history. Through his holding company, Only the Brave (which also owns Maison Martin Margiela and Viktor & Rolf), Rosso is working with the City of Venice to bring the structure—the oldest of four spanning the Grand Canal—back to its original glory. When it was completed in 1591, architect Antonio da Ponte’s design of two inclined ramps leading to a central portico was considered so innovative that some predicted its imminent collapse. Today, more than 400 years later, it remains a vivid identifier of the city, even as columns collapse and deterioration takes hold. Rosso told WWD that it is “the most important bridge historically, one of the world’s wonders, and an international symbol which can be associated with an international brand such as ours.” Ah, but therein lies some of the hesitancy from architectural critics and connoisseurs, who are concerned that Diesel will use the reconstruction purely as an advertising gambit, much as Diego Della Valle has been accused with his 25 million euro gift to restore Rome’s Colosseum: Tod’s now has exclusive promotion rights for the structure and its image for 15 years. Still, Rosso says his endeavor will be “creative, not invasive.” Meanwhile, Prada is busily restoring the nearby Ca’ Corner della Regina palazzo, a baroque masterpiece built in 1724, to no great outcry, and the legendary Palazzo Ducale was brought back to life through the efforts of Bulgari, Chopard, Coca-Cola and Gucci (all of whom were allowed to erect signage during the construction process), so perhaps this is all a bit of Italian hot air blowing like a self-important sirocco through the country’s intellectual guard.

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