Towns scattered around the country are rich in terms of historical buildings, more accessible in terms of costs and perhaps even more hungry for fashion
Changing the local idea of fashion for good
Arezzo is a small Tuscan city located southeast of Florence, close enough to drive tourists from the all-time Italian Mecca but far enough to have its own identity. A charming, wealthy, and conservative city, mostly known for its Middle Ages architecture and Renaissance art – The Medieval Piazza Grande, Piero Della Francesca’s frescoes in St. Francis Basilica and the masterpiece collection of Casa Vasari just to name a few. Not exactly a fashion hotspot, nonetheless home to what legitimately prides itself of being the most beautiful concept store in the world: Sugar Arezzo – the brainchild of honorary president of the Italian Buying Chamber Beppe Angiolini, who has his roots in the Italian town.
Sugar Arezzo started in the Eighties as a small boutique in Corso Italia, the city’s shopping street. People living in small, provincial cities are interested in fashion and in trends especially. They don’t always have access to fashion weeks and to large international fashion exhibitions, therefore they rely on magazines, social media, and local retail, which today more than ever has to be able to offer something exceptional in order the beat its online competitors. Sugar Arezzo was new, daring, and bold: it changed the local idea of fashion for good, shook some dust off, and added a tinge of international glamour to the 1500s churches and frescoes. Angiolini was still in his early twenties but Sugar was growing fast, getting larger and larger and stocking previously unseen brands.
People started to come over from Florence, then from Pisa and Siena, and then from the rest of the country. Soon in Arezzo, it became a thing to walk around the streets with the Sugar Arezzo tote bag. A boutique with a European flair, driven by a forward-thinking trendsetter, would have done marvels abroad, but Angiolini chose to stay and was soon rewarded with an affectionate and loyal clientele and with the status of local fashion hero. Today Sugar Arezzo counts several locations around the city center devoted to all things fashion – from shopping to events. The main location is in Corso Italia 60, inside the Renaissance building Palazzo Lambardi.
Once belonging to the noble Lambardi family, the palazzo is one of the few examples of civil architecture with a baroque style built in Arezzo. The current 18th century configuration of the building derives from the fusion of several court houses built between the 13th and the 15th century, enriched by an old-fashion garden. On the inside two mosaic floors once belonging to an Ancient Roman domus, show vestiges of the city’s history tracing back to its origins in the 1stcentury A.C.
The wooden ceilings and frescoes served as inspiration for the project of Vincenzo De Cotiis Architects, who led both the restoration of the building and the development the Concept Store. The entire intervention aimed at bringing back the historical memory of the building, revealing the old decors concealed by time and allowing the ancient walls and ceilings to resurface. Metal, marble, contemporary prints and led-screens contrast with the ancient structure, creating a harmonious dialogue between past and present. So the Valentino and Versace collections are sheltered by a 15th century frescoed ceiling, the Yves Saint Laurent frames an engraved fireplace, the Burberrys have a bare and artfully ruined wall as a backdrop while Balenciaga and Marni are magnified by a million or so mirrors.
The ground street-level floor is dedicated to the more street side of the stock, featuring Off-White, R13, Undercover and all the sneakers. Coffee and cocktails are served at No Sugar Please, the onsite bar and cafeteria, while the top floor is now dedicated to hospitality, with fifteen designer rooms with surprisingly accessible rates. Contemporary art and fashion publications are distributed all around the store, possibly the only distributor in Arezzo and in the entire province of niche titles.
Can a store change the appeal of a city? Sugar Arezzo did not only add glamour and cool to the town, it actually improved the local revenues. People follow the shop’s Instagram and then come from all over the world for the exclusive retail-experience. Not only fashion lovers, but also the art crowd and design professional come to visit Sugar Arezzo, drawn by the prestigious architecture and interiors.
Angiolini previously organized a charity fashion show in Arezzo, something that the small Tuscan city had never seen, with some of the store’s best pieces. More recently, Sugar Arezzo celebrated the launch of Armani’s new handbag La Prima with an exclusive cocktail and gala. Angiolini still does the entire buying himself, inviting his most affectionate customers and international guests for previews and late-night fittings.
Corso Italia, 60