Wardrobe: Roman Forum

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The row of display windows punctuating the block-long facade of the Davide Cenci store in Rome provides much more than a preview of the classic men’s suits, supple leather outerwear, and sportswear featured within. The oversize windows that encircle the 16th-century building reflect how the business has grown steadily over the years, along with its prominence as one of Italy’s oldest fashion retailing dynasties.

“My grandfather, Davide Cenci, opened the shop in 1926 with two windows,” says company owner David Cenci. Following the most recent renovation—a three-phase, multimillion-dollar facelift that expanded the sales floor by 25 percent—the number of windows reached 20.

Cenci—who divides his time between stores in New York, Milan, and Rome—and his brother Giacomo, who oversees the Milan store, are assuming the reins of the company from their father, Paolo, and uncle, Germano. The 78-year-old Roman flagship is located on one of Rome’s oldest shopping streets, Via di Campo Marzio, just a short walk from the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti.

The expansion added a formal entry, chic pillbox-shaped mahogany display cases, and a sweeping white Portuguese marble staircase to the store’s formerly dark and mazelike interior. The renovation will ultimately enable Davide Cenci to broaden its men’s merchandise mix, which features classic Italian-, British-, and American-made suits and sport coats, Scottish cashmere knitwear, traditional sportswear, bench-made footwear, and leather accessories. It also leaves room to introduce a small home collection, expand its women’s offerings, and develop an expanded and combined men’s and women’s shoe salon.

American architect Michael Gabellini skillfully integrated new and old into one cohesive environment. Cenci says the more difficult challenge for the store was creating a modern space that would attract a new generation of customers without alienating its core audience of conservative business professionals.

“Even though we are a true Roman store near the Parliament,” says Cenci, noting that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a customer, “Rome is also a historic place, and we have lots of foreign visitors. So we recognize the need to bring in new customers at an earlier stage, even if all they need is a sweater.”

Cenci has some familiarity with American audiences in particular, having offered an extensive selection of Italian fashion at the family’s New York shop on Madison Avenue at 68th Street since 1982. Nevertheless, he recognizes that the love affair with the “Made in Italy” label has been threatened by the rising euro and falling greenback. Cenci hopes, however, that the Rome store renovation and the expanded product mix in all three stores will rekindle the romance.

Davide Cenci



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