With a struggling economy, Italy's government leaders seem to be banking on the restoration of its historic structures, including Rome's Colosseum, to spark interest in tourism. Although Italy is renowned for its rich culture, art and history, the maintenance of its major monuments has taken a toll on the fledging economy.
Now, thanks to the financial support of the leather goods maker Tod's - a footwear favourite among everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to Nicole Kidman - the blackened Roman arena, which has been rocked by the vibrations of the nearby subway line and traffic, will finally get a well-deserved makeover. Commencing in December, essential cleaning and repairs will take place. However, the project will also involve the planning and construction of a new visitors centre, as well as repairing the monument's internal and subterranean areas which will enhance accessibility. When asked to describe the completed project, Colosseum site director Rossella Rea told BBC News that it would be restored to its original colour of "white ochre."
Tod's CEO and founder, Diego Della Valle has been eager to see this partnership come to fruition, signing a Rome city council accord last year. As he told the The Telegraph, "We are the best Italian product, and we are trying to explain this around the world, especially in new markets, and show why we are different."
Even though the fashion industry has always been a critical component of Italy's economic fabric, preserving the nation's cultural icons, including the Colosseum, may offer economic stability. In light of his decision to fund the renovation, it would appear that Della Valle is well aware of this reality.
While at first glance, the pairing of an iconic fashion brand with the reconstruction of a historic landmark is an unlikely partnership, but when it comes to social responsibility, it is certainly not the first time that fashion's best and brightest have stepped forward. Among notable efforts, Italian designer Giorgio Armani has supported the humanitarian efforts of Green Cross International, while for the past several years, Donna Karan's foundation has focused reconstruction efforts on projects in Haiti. Some critics believe these efforts pale in comparison to the financial windfall of the designers and their respective brands. Meanwhile, others may find the establishment of foundations and offering of finances are in a way, an acknowledgement of their own good fortune - especially during these trying, financial times.
At a recent press conference, Della Valle, along with Italy's Cultural Minister, Lorenzo Oraghi, said they hoped the project would ignite interest among Italian businesses to rally around the preservation of other national landmarks. Della Valle is reported to have shared that, "The future of Italy will be through making use of the beauty of its monuments and its landscapes as well as its food." In addition to his own philanthropic efforts, Della Valle has reportedly urged his counterparts to assist in the repair of other Italian icons.
|The man behind the deal, Diego Della Valle.
But even with the positive cultural and economic impact from the landmark's restoration, the final decision to accept Tod's €25m financial investment wasn't easily achieved. Critics feared that Tod's sponsorship of the restoration would result in the plastering of the brand's advertising campaigns throughout the venue. However, with Della Valle's claim that the company's commitment is of a philanthropic nature, for the moment, Tod's has all but silenced naysayers.
But while you won't find Tod's signature logo stamped onto the back of admission tickets (as was rumoured to be the agreement), the sponsorship is definitely a well-positioned marketing move. This exercise in social responsibility allows Tod's to cultivate an air of elegance which is critical to the sale of luxury wares, especially amid Italy's troubled economic climate. After all, the Italian economy cannot afford to turn away tourists, and this restoration project is but one step towards inspiring visitors to the county; many of whom are also luxury shoppers.
With Tod's profits continuing to soar, some critics would argue that Della Valle's funding of the monumental project, was not only a statement of generosity but also one of business power. It is a notable argument, but Tod's financial success has been a hard-won battle one that has employed strategic rebranding as well as a diverse collective of A-list clients. In a way, one may say that Della Valle's investment in the Colosseum renovation project, is in keeping with his investment in Tod's. As British Vogue reported in February of this year, Della Valle told a press conference, "A monument that represents Italy in the world must be restored, and a company that represents Made in Italy stepped forward to say, 'If you need us, we are here.'"
While skeptics will likely continue to argue whether this project is one of social responsibility or business investment, it is undeniably one that will positively impact Italy's tourism industry, enabling this once formidable nation to reclaim a piece of its cultural glory.
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