Downton Abbey Wardrobe Visionary Calls on Fortuny for Final Season


Over the past 6 years, Downton Abbey has given its international audience a glimpse into a time that seems so far from our current day. When in fact, the turn of the century shares many parallels with the present. Nations at war, a widening income and class gap, and the promise of ending prohibition – then on alcohol, today on the hemp plant. The era was one of new beginnings and forthcoming change. As the use of the telephone became accessible and the world began to communicate, we find ourselves currently at the cusp of practically unlimited information access and a completely automated, technological world. It’s clear, the times were and are, a-changing.

Among those changes, was a revolution in fashion. The most stylish women of the day were forced into impossibly tight corsets and elaborate hoop skirts that, while very beautiful, melded women into an upside-down chalice of conformity. Elaborate, heavy gowns were standard for events large and small, and what was expected was done. As the tides began to turn in the art world, from impressionism to the abstract, so was the desire to alter the expectations tied to a woman’s wardrobe.

A young Spanish artist found new inspiration in the world of fashion design. Never satisfied with the conventional, he had a plan to push boundaries by doing what no other designers of the day were willing to try. As always, the bravest are always the remembered. Instead of looking to the fashion of his current day, Mariano Fortuny began to search far back into historical, even ancient archives. Years, centuries, and millennia took him all the way back to ancient Greece. He was not interested in inspiring himself with the princess or duchess of this country or that, he wanted to make women look more significant, how he saw them — as goddesses. He believed they should be in control of their own destiny and unshackled by the conventions of the time — beautiful, strong, liberated. He found his muse in the ancient statues of the daughters of the gods. Unlike the contemporary dresses of the day, which were meant to accentuate certain bodily proportions while diminishing others, these long, flowing, pleated, single-piece sheaths flowed over the feminine physique, almost adhering to the actual body, not creating a shape, but rather complimenting the one that was already true.

At the drawing board, Fortuny’s sketches began in raw form. He started by envisioning these goddesses floating from from the sky and into his mind. How would the dress go from mere cloth to clothes? How would it be worn? And most importantly, how would such an ancient concept – one fit for a deity, be met by a populous who wanted bulky Elizabethan hoops and bustiers rather than form-fitting elegance?

Like all great designers, he begins with the most basic element: the material. For years, many fabrics were woven and brought in from The East to be dyed, seamed, and tailored for the cloaks and gowns of royalty. Fabric has a way of expressing an emotion, much like paint on canvas or clay in the hands of the sculptor. But if Mariano was to be dressing goddesses, what is the fabric they would choose? He quickly realized there was only one material that could truly meet all his needs. It would have to be light enough to accentuate the figure, without overwhelming it. It would need to flow with a queen’s grace, and as with all great works of fashion, bring itself to a point of unison between form and fabric. The answer was in the most luxurious textile of all. The most precious commodity the Far East offered the world, that could be appreciated by all who laid hands on it…silk.

Instantly, Fortuny is met with challenges. While beautiful to the touch and if dyed correctly, mind-glowingly colorful, silk was temperamental and delicate. Cut as a fitted dress, it might flow, but wouldn’t convey what he was after – the expression of a celestial being. The design was simple. A low, but not too low, bow neckline, bringing attention to the subject’s collar bone and posture. A top portion that bled over a belted, full length skirt dabbling onto the floor as drips of paint might, from a brush freshly pulled off the palette. While hitting all the notes on structure, he wasn’t finding the element that would separate his dress from all other silk gowns. The one step that would take his piece from beautiful to timeless, iconic, and desired forever. He needed to create a texture that would help the dress cling to form, without stretching a tight cloth over it. Something to bring the silk closer to itself and subsequently, to her.

The pleating process was complex. Ten or fifteen pleats would be attractive but lacked drama. He decided to go for the labor intensive route. Dozens, and eventually hundreds of pleats later he had something new and magical. The touch of silk, the structure of the ancient greek goddess, heart racing color, and the expression of a new era in fashion and design. Before long, the dresses were regarded as a pivotal change in the history of fashion, works of fine art, and one of the most desirable garments in the world. Eventually, these one of a kind masterpieces would be housed in museums, art collections, and lining the closets of the most stylish women in history.

Fast forward about a hundred years and we find ourselves on the grounds of Highclere Castle in Newbury, England. The culmination of one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed television shows of the last two decades approaches, and its Emmy nominated wardrobe master Anna Robbins is unraveling six original pieces of the very dress in question, The Fortuny Delphos Gown. Along with her devoted team, Robbins has meticulously designed and produced all the garments seen on Downton Abbey since she joined the show in it’s fifth season.


Crammed into her stuffed trailer on the castle grounds, Anna seems at home in her surroundings, working against the clock on the final season’s looks. “My primary interest has always been this passion for historical costume. It’s what drives me.” And driven she is. As you scan the workroom’s accouterments you are immediately struck with her penchant for meticulous historic detail. “You have to raise your game when you come onto a set like Downton Abbey’s. The writing, the production design, everything is elevated.”

Dripping with charm and unwavering style, Anna conveys how much her ability to take risks and run with new ideas helped set her vision in motion. “I’ve been given a great deal of creative freedom on this show. It made me feel like this job was meant for me, so it came very naturally. I knew we needed that kind of flexibility to craft the show’s appearance upstairs and downstairs, alike.”

The show, which follows turn of the century aristocratic families and their servant counterparts, features dozens of characters in every episode, often changing looks throughout the unfolding story. Seasonal, age-appropriate, and era changing fashion can be seen woven through the entire series, presenting a bounty of challenges for Anna and her team. “Proportions are also a concern. A girl in 2015 is simply a different shape, and tends to be taller than the girls from the 1920s.” Now filming the sixth and final season which brings the story to the mid-1920s, fashion was in a major transition as well, and Robbins was ready for it. “Julian [Fellows] has a factual timeline that we all have to work on. So you have to account for how that plays into the fashion, the change of the eras, and the details associated with them.”

Robbins, who reads the scripts long before they’re put on screen, also has to track the journeys of these very complex characters, a feat that is just as taxing as it sounds. “I’ve tried to create an arc in the clothing design that covers the characters and their emotions. As you read the scripts, you’re designing and illustrating, and before long, you start to know them. For instance, you can use red on any of the women, but the bold vibrant reds that we place on Mary (played by Michelle Dockery) speak to her nature, versus the more autonomous, salmony reds on Edith (Laura Carmichael), or the soft, sweet blushes you’d see on Rose (Lilly James). It was important  to bring out that spectrum of color which helps convey the character’s personality and experience.”

Regarded as a wardrobe designer’s dream, including Fortuny in their repertoire is extremely rare, as the original pieces are few and far between. With many lost in the demise of estates throughout the century, finding one was hard enough, let alone trying to get it loaned out. After an informal connection with Fortuny creative director Mickey Riad, Anna thought there was no better time to showcase Mariano’s game-changing pieces than now. “I felt it was such an obvious choice for Mary to be in Fortuny this year. With her stature, her sense of style, and what it represents at this stage in her life.” Anna goes on to share how Fortuny’s design was not only cutting edge stylistically, it also served as part of the narrative, helping tell the story. “In this season you see this period of liberation and emancipation for these women, where they’re finding their own voice. An identity beyond simply who they’re married to, and you see that same transformation in Fortuny’s dress design. He was essentially the first artist of his time who set out to find the woman’s form and celebrate it, rather than hide it. It’s exactly what we needed, the perfect statement piece.”

A handful of Fortuny designed pieces will be featured, including an original Delphos gown that will adorn Lady Mary (Dockery) near the end of the season and the series finale. This marks the first ever, long overdue, global television appearance of his iconic dress design, leaving fans of the show along with the fashion world’s eyes peeled. “It’s fitting.” Says Robbins, “A timeless design, finding the body and soul within.”

The final episode of Downton Abbey airs this Sunday on PBS at 9PM EST.


Fortuny Introduces Micromondo Collection

Fortuny is pleased to introduce its new W/S 2016 collection, Micromondo. With 112 SKUs available in 10 patterns and up to 20 color ways, the collection presents a refreshed interpretation and modernized adaptation of Fortuny’s distinguished prints, in addition to new velvets, wools, linens and sheers.

While continuing the legacy of a refined color palette and bespoke Italian textiles, the Micromondo collection offers versatility and timeless elegance. Composed of the highest quality fibers including wool, cashmere, linen and cotton, the collection features solid and textured abstract minimalist motifs, skillfully designed to create the quintessential depth of the house’s fabrics. Drawing inspiration from the unique landscape and lifestyle in the Venetian lagoon, the collection incorporates texture and light into the fabric, allowing users to continually discover new worlds beneath the exquisite appearance. The brand new prints in the collection reinterpret three classic Fortuny designs in an entirely new way. At first glance, Micro-Barberini, Micro-Rabat and Micro-Campanelle seem like modern, geometric, small scale patterns, but step back and a large scale Fortuny design magically reveals itself. The Cogolo line takes inspiration from the fishnet used by local fishermen, finely woven and dyed to induce a casual elegant vibe. The misty haze that covers Venice in a mysterious and romantic aura inspires the sheer wool Foschia line. The Barena line is reminiscent of the lagoon’s salt marsh; its rich texture and multi-dimensional colors in reaction to light help the line pair well with a wealth of patterned fabrics. With a wide range of rub counts, colors and widths, the Micromondo collection opens the door to ever more versatile applications in interior design while preserving an overall luxurious feeling.

The collection pays tribute to Mariano Fortuny’s painterly approach to fabrics and plays with the idea of a world within another world. Fortuny stays true to its commitment to the highest quality materials and a refined taste in color. While every fabric in the Micromondo collection renders a harmonious compliment to Fortuny’s existing fabrics, they each shine on their own.

For more information, please visit

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Photos by Gianmaria De Luca


Sectile 1729

Fortuny // Venetian Heritage

New York, NY (October 2015) — Fortuny announces its collaboration with Venetian Heritage creating a collection inspired by the Gesuiti Church in Venice, known for its elaborate marble, sculpted and inlaid to look like draped fabric. The collection, titled Sectile 1729, draws inspiration from the “fabric” patterns. These 6 newly designed pat- terns will be released as part of the W/S 2016 collection in January at Paris Deco Off.

“We are thrilled to work with Venetian Heritage towards our mutual interest of pre-

serving Venice and our connection to Italy,” says Mickey Riad. Fortuny’s take on the patterns from the church are both palatial and modern with unique twists like fields of

wavy lines that spring the pattern into 3D and reflect the curvature of the marble.





Fortuny Unveils Latest Collection W/S 2015


New York, NY (January 2015) – Legendary Venetian fabric house Fortuny is pleased to introduce its first new fabric collection in more than two years.

Drawing inspiration from Japanese folklore of “The Fox’s Wedding,” Fortuny released 30 new SKUs in the W/S 2015 collection, including four newly designed patterns, two archival patterns and seven existing patterns in new colorways.  The line also includes a limited edition series of Ann Wood designed Fortuny foxes wearing reversible Fortuny kimonos.

“We decided upon the theme of “The Fox’s Wedding” as we were playing around with halftones and production techniques,” says Mickey Riad, Creative Director of Fortuny.  “Japanese legend attributes the phenomenon of the way a sun shower can fool what your eye sees to foxes that often play tricks on humans. The idea that the new collection plays tricks on the eye fit perfectly with that theme.  In addition, the pattern and color choices that were inspired by Japanese art and textiles. ”

The goal of the collection was to create designs that embraced Mariano Fortuny’s painterly approach to fabric and play with the idea of what is seen and unseen, interpreting different elements as fabric.  Highlights include “Camo,” a Venetian interpretation of traditional camouflage that created the pattern from photographs of water and islands as opposed to foliage, “Scale,” which draws inspiration from a close up of butterfly wings and plays with lines fading in and out, and “Marmo,” Fortuny’s take on marble stone. Each of the Camo and Marmo patterns line up side to side in five different sections, to allow surfaces using these designs to appear to have no repeat.

Rounding out the collection are the limited edition foxes designed by Ann Wood.  The largest scale animals in the artist’s collection to date, the foxes showcase, through reversible kimonos, the 30 different patterns in the collection.

For more information, please visit


About Fortuny
More than a century old, Fortuny remains the highly esteemed Venetian textile company founded by noted artist, inventor and fashion-turned textile designer, Mariano Fortuny. Today, under the management of the brothers Riad, Fortuny is infused with the spirit of its founder, Mariano Fortuny. Every Fortuny fabric is still produced in the same factory, on the same machines, using the same secret process and techniques handed down from generation to generation. Just as Mariano Fortuny used his love for the past and respect for tradition to inspire his creativity, today Fortuny continues to be a pioneer in the world of design and technology. From rich, new fabric colorways to furniture, Fortuny’s latest offerings celebrate the timeless versatility and allure of Fortuny with a contemporary point of view.

For press inquiries, please contact:




No Talking Heads, but Talking Hands

My dad first told me my favorite story about my grandfather when he caught me gesturing with my hands while talking. When they were young kids, my dad and his sister tied my grandfather’s hands behind his back and tried to have a conversation with him. Like any true Sicilian, my grandfather’s immediate reaction was to lift up his hands and begin gesticulating, and once he realized this wasn’t possible, he suddenly couldn’t find the words. As a 10 year old, my dad found it hilarious, and it certainly is funny. But even more, it is a perfect illustration of the fascinating world that is Italian hand gestures.


As written in a 2013 New York Times piece on the topic, “To Italians, gesturing comes naturally. Children and adolescents gesture. The elderly gesture. Some joke that gesturing may even begin before birth.” It is present amongst every social spectrum, and is even (and especially) a part of Italy’s political spectacle. Many public figures are remembered for their habit of using hand gestures (like the clasped hands of Giulio Andreotti, as if to say, “I have the power and can use it if I want to”). These gestures have been around forever, often thought to have developed as ways to compete and mark territory in the crowded arenas of heavily populated Italian cities. While language evolved dramatically, gestures have more or less stayed the same.

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Here at Fortuny, we take Italian lessons every Tuesday and decided to pick the brain of our lovely teacher, Andrea. He explained that the further south you go in Italy, the hotter it gets, and the hotter the heat, the hotter the temper. Naturally, this translates into more extreme hand gestures. Andrea tested out a few gestures on us, and our team member, Charlie, had a few ideas of his own when it came to what they meant. But regardless of how fluent (or not) we are in this language, if you will, it doesn’t take much to appreciate the history, uniqueness, and distinct Italian nature of talking with your hands.

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(Top left: Real answer – This is delicious! Charlie’s answer – I’m cute! Top right: Real answer – Capisce?! Charlie knew it! Middle left: Real answer – I’m so mad at you! Charlie’s answer – I forgot to do my homework! Middle right: Real answer – I’m broke! Charlie’s answer – Due / two. Bottom left: Real answer – Surprise! Fortuny’s answer – Actually…we couldn’t figure this one out!)


When Venice is too Far Away: A Meditation

Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, recently published an entertaining piece called “The Anatomy of a Cartoon,” in which he chronicles the inception and development of one of Joe Dator’s iconic drawings. His example depicts a couple sitting in a gondola while stuck in the middle of a classic Manhattan traffic jam.

Naturally, we at Fortuny were excited to discover that this wasn’t the only gondola-related cartoon: the rest of the piece offers a number of delightful illustrations from the archive all featuring the gondola, which is arguably one of the objects most synonymous with Venice.

From the hubbub and traffic of New York City, it’s pretty common for our minds to drift from Third Avenue into the day-to-day of our Venetian co-workers, floating down a canal in a hand-carved gondola.


Riding in a gondola seems to be the perfect trinity of form, function and experience: to travel the city by doing something completely unique to its history, to transport yourself physically, wasting no time underground or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Sagging, Victorian architecture, pockets of blue sky, and mysterious passageways drift by, with no car horns blowing.

Most importantly, the ride serves as a moment to reflect—about the present, past and future, and about such a mesmerizing city.  This rings true about New York, too, because despite its chaos, there is still a magical buzz present. Taking a second to remember this is something we could all stand to do once in a while.

All cartoons courtesy the New Yorker.



Above: The custom, hand-carved gondola belonging to Mickey and Maury’s friend, Umberto.


The Master: Fortuny Fashion Throughout the Years

No matter the city, whether it be New York, Milan or Paris, in every season surrounding the flurry of Fashion Week, there is an inevitable shift in the “It” crowd–new models arrive on the scene, new designers have their first shows, and new trends make their debuts. However, among all the new, one can often find a thread that traces back to the giants that came before. Among these is none other than the Fortuny Pleat.

While pleating is not something exclusive to Fortuny’s designs, his method is synonymous with elegance, quality, and uniqueness. Not to mention, it is one that many have attempted to emulate throughout the years. The tightness and characteristics of the Fortuny pleat can really only be achieved carefully and thoughtfully by hand and with silk. Many other types of pleats turn out linear or looser, due to fabric choice, execution, or the method used. Fortuny’s pleats will always stand alone–the nuances and attention to detail set them apart and are certainly why people still talk about Fortuny and his designs today.


The Delphos gown is arguably Fortuny’s most recognizable pleated work. Worn by the likes of Isadora Duncan, Lauren Bacall, and Tina Chow, the gown’s construction showcases the versatility of pleating, and even more, the versatility of the gown itself. Much like our fabrics here at Fortuny, each creation was a work of art. The flowing, masterful pleats resembled columns, and any woman who wore the Delphos gown looked effortless and statuesque.

Left: Oscar de la Renta (2012) Right: Jill Stuart (2015) 

It is no different in 2014, with women still striving to achieve a look of timeless sophistication, to which designers answer with pleats. They are a perpetual fashion week staple, most notably in designs by Oscar de la Renta and Lanvin. The Spring 2015 collections shown this past New York Fashion Week also have a number of notable homages to Fortuny’s cutting, styling, and pleating. Jill Stuart’s modern jumpsuit is crafted with a pleated blush-colored silk, while Alexander Wang, in an interview with Vogue, explained how he “wanted to reinterpret and manipulate [his] ideas and mix them with the cutting of Madame Grés and Fortuny.” Regardless of the methods used to achieve them, Fortuny’s pleats and silhouettes will always be aesthetically beautiful, tasteful, and intriguing, a testament to his revolutionary methods and iconic status among the world of design.


Milton Gendel’s Portrait of the Countess

Those that have had the honor of meeting or knowing Countess Elsie Lee Gozzi can attest to her larger-than-life persona, a fitting description for the woman responsible for bringing Fortuny’s textiles out of the churches, museums and theater and into people’s homes. Her relationship with Fortuny began in 1927 and continued until her death in 1994. Her charisma and taste were ever present in the patterns and colors and she made sure Fortuny maintained its legacy and presence when she took over the production in 1949 after Mariano Fortuny’s death, at the request of his widow, Henriette. However, while she was so greatly involved with the company, her private life was not something that was widely documented. In this day and age, people often feel as though it’s a given to know the intricacies of public figures’ lives, and while Fortuny’s history is readily available, the Countess’ is not.

Enter photographer Milton Gendel. Now 96 years old, Gendel was a fixture in the upper echelons of Rome’s social scene during its most glamorous moments in the 1950s and 60s. His photos often communicate this fact — Peggy Guggenheim and Queen Elizabeth were among his many subjects.


Gendel’s work was incredibly intimate, as he often said he never had the intention of publishing any of the images. The photograph below is a perfect example: Countess Gozzi and two other women sitting and talking over tea in Venice in 1977.


Their posture is natural, their faces are genuine, engaged. The moment, true to Gendel’s style, is absolutely authentic, offering a rare glance at the Countess—a woman who, like Gendel, appreciated beauty, craftsmanship, and loyalty.

The difference between this photograph and Gendel’s others is his role. Many of his works are lively and bustling, and his presence is strongly felt. He was always at once experiencing and documenting what he saw through the lens. However, with the image of the Countess, he feels like an observer. The photograph’s quiet nature suggests that Gendel did not want to interrupt the conversation, and all the unknowns of the circumstances add to its allure. It is exciting to ponder what brought the Countess and Gendel together, especially considering how much he valued who and what he photographed. But despite these unknowns, the image itself is still a treasure as the Countess sits surrounded by grand columns and the long, grassy branches of the willow trees, their earthy colors perhaps inspiring a new iconic Fortuny design or color palette.

A quick aside: Madeline Weinrib was a neighbor to Milton Gendel in Rome, and she posted an interview with him on her blog this past September — it’s a great read.


Some more of Gendel’s Society Portraits:



Anna LaetitiaLeo Castelli Lady Egremont Fendi Models Lady Diana Cooper
Prince Philip Spider QuinellMaurizio Mochetti


Ann Wood Interview on While She Naps

This week, Abby Glassenberg interviewed Ann Wood on her podcast While She Naps, where they discussed Ann’s process and inspiration for her beautiful handmade animals and objects.  She had some very nice things to say about our collaboration — so nice that we will forgive her for calling Mariano Fortuny, “Mario.”  He was many things, Ann, but never a cartoon plumber!


Listen to Ann Wood talk about Fortuny on “While She Naps with Abby Glassenberg”

Full episode:


Ann Wood for Fortuny: Birds Seeking Shelter Ann Wood for Fortuny: Two Owls and a Toadstool Ann Wood for Fortuny: Creepy Crawlers




Bill Cunningham’s “Facades”

Bill Cunningham’s series “Facades” is on view at the New York Historical Society through this Sunday, June 15.  In his project, which spanned from the late sixties to early seventies, Cunningham shot portraits of Italian-American photographer Editta Sherman in front of landmark buildings around Manhattan, dressed and posed in styles contemporary with the architecture of the building. Costumes were found in thrift stores, street fairs and auctions. In this picture in front of federal hall, Sherman is donning a 1910 Fortuny Delphos gown — good find, Bill Cunningham!


Bill Cunningham, Federal Hall (built ca. 1842, costume ca. 1910), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham.

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