In 1919, artist Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo opened the Fortuny factory in Venice. Originally producing fabrics for churches, museums, and the theater, Fortuny's fame grew when he began working in fashion.
After seeing Fortuny fabrics hanging in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris in 1927, Elsie McNeill Lee, a New York interior designer, was so enamored that she traveled to Venice to meet Mariano Fortuny. She convinced him that the fabrics were perfect to offer to interior designers and decorators. She became his exclusive distributor and, after his passing in 1949, took over the company.
With the death of her first husband, Elsie married Italian Count Alvise Gozzi. She became known simply as "La Contessa." She hand-picked Maged Riad, her attorney, to take over the company in 1988, and it has remained in the talented hands of the Riad family since that time.
For an interior designer, it is hard to imagine a greater mecca than the Fortuny factory and showroom in Venice. Paul Wiseman traveled there in 2010 for a nostalgic tour given by current owner Maury Riad. Paul first visited in 1985 when La Contessa Gozzi was still alive. After selling more Fortuny fabric that year than anyone else in the United States, he was invited to travel to Venice as her guest.
Paul booked passage on the Orient Express from Paris to Venice. On arrival, he was transported from the train station in the company's water limousine -- upholstered in what else but Fortuny! He stayed at the luxurious Hotel Gritti Palace, former residence of the Duke Andre Gritti. He was invited to tour the Fortuny showroom and garden with La Contessa. When at her home later for drinks, he was treated to a tour of her private dress collection. They then had dinner for two at Harry's Bar. Truly a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime tête-à-tête with an icon of the design world!
|The ultimate luxury -- sleeping in Fortuny on Nob Hill! |
(Headboard and custom bed coverlet in "Campanelle" in Rembrandt rust, straw, and silvery gold)
Fortuny continues to represent the ultimate in luxury. The Wiseman Group recognizes the beauty and timelessness of their fabrics and is a large customer of the company. In one particularly sumptuous project, Paul created a richly subtle palette for his own Nob Hill pied-à-terre by using Fortuny fabrics throughout.
|Display niche with shelves upholstered in "Caravaggio"|