From the solid block of travertine marble that adorns the living room wall without a single join to the wallpaper that is subtly imbued with the familiar Fendi logo, the residences at Epic Marbella are an elegant homage to the world-famous fashion brand.
The partnership between the project’s developers, Sierra Blanca Estates, and Fendi Casa, the Italian brand’s furnishings arm, brings something entirely new to Marbella. It is Fendi’s first residential project in Europe and the Costa del Sol’s first branded residences.
The collaboration has also paved the way for two more fashion-branded partnerships for Sierra Blanca Estates, with Karl Lagerfeld and Dolce & Gabbana, all in an emerging area of the Golden Mile known as Marbella Design Hills.
The matchmaker behind these high-profile partnerships is The One Atelier, the go-to consultants for prime new branded developments around the world. We spoke with Anna Masello, the real estate branding director at The One Atelier
“When the click happens between developer and brand, it’s not by chance. It’s a meeting of two companies looking for the same things,” says Masello. “We start by creating the right match and we make sure the brand is fully committed to all steps of the process.”
The speed of sales at Epic Marbella suggests that these kind of brand collaborations have struck upon the perfect match. “This is the fastest development we’ve ever worked on in terms of the time it has taken to all come together” she says.
That comes down, she thinks, to Sierra Blanca Estates’ track record in the super-prime Marbella market. “They have been playing a major role in Marbella for decades and they know their target audience well, so they know what brand will fit a particular project.”
Fendi Casa, meanwhile, are interested in being involved in a specific location or project. “Marbella is having an incredible moment. It has become the luxury capital of Europe – a place that attracts an affluent international market – and this project ticked so many boxes for Fendi Casa,” Masello comments.
For buyers, it’s about wanting to be part of that brand’s community. “There’s a sense of wanting to belong to a certain world,” says Masello. The connection continues post-sales, too, with some owners choosing to have their homes styled by Fendi Casa. They also benefit from access to exclusive experiences such as Fendi fashion events in Milan. “We make sure the buyer’s dream is complete. It’s a personal 360-degree experience for them,” says Masello.
Fendi has further cemented its confidence in Marbella with a partnership last summer with a local beach club and a new accessories boutique in the five-star Puente Romano resort.
Sierra Blanca Estates’ collaboration at Epic Marbella began in 2016. Although Fendi Casa faced the challenge of it being Marbella’s first branded residence scheme, construction was already underway on the project’s first non-branded phase. “It meant matching the brand with the developer was another guarantee of the type of environment they were building,” says Masello. “When one brand enters into this kind of partnership with a developer, it lends an air of legitimacy to the developer and the location that makes other brands want to follow.”
The One Atelier’s job is to “read the codes of the brand and translate them into a design language for the residences. We match the aesthetics of the place with the brand,” she says. Fashion brands often change their image, but certain pillars remain. Our role is to keep the aesthetic that won’t go out of fashion.”
With Fendi Casa, she identifies “the timeless feeling, like when you enter a palazzo and see the beautiful travertine. When we were choosing the material that would underpin the beauty of the Epic apartments and the arch when you enter the resort, we knew it had to be this light travertine stone”.
That link to the brand continues throughout the residences, in the detailing in the kitchens and the walk-in closets in the bedrooms. “That link with fashion is there. The beautiful woods, the bespoke metal handles and velvet-covered shelves, all approved by the brand, feel as though you are in a Fendi boutique.”
At times, her role is to bring a sense of balance. “A type of marble that costs €2,000 per square metre isn’t sustainable in the whole development. We always bring it back to the fact that if the development is successful, the brand is successful, so the numbers need to work,” she says.
With the KARL LAGERFELD-branded scheme of five villas – the only luxury project the fashion brand have been involved with, and the first real estate project since the designer passed away – The One Atelier and Sierra Blanca Estates had the benefit of working with Caroline Lebar, who has been with the fashion house for more than 30 years, and Pier Paolo Righi, the company’s CEO and a close friend of Lagerfeld. Together, they could translate Karl’s passions into interior design, such as his love of books. “We have created a statement floor-to-ceiling library in each villa, with the books exhibited horizontally in the way he liked,” Masello explains. Lagerfeld also liked to play with mirrors, so the facades of the villas feature specially-designed reflective ceramic tiles, and each villa is subtly different from the next. “Each is a one-off jewel”, says Masello.
As with Fendi Casa, the demand from buyers is confirmation that The One Atelier have struck the right note. “It’s tough to arrive in the market with this kind of product. It’s very niche and totally different from anything else you can buy in Marbella. Karl Lagerfeld changed the path of fashion in the 21st century. It requires courage to try to represent that in a property development, but the feedback suggests we got it right,” she says.
Sierra Blanca Estates’ next collaboration with Dolce&Gabbana is the biggest of the three in scale. Here, says Masello, the “family-driven” dynamic of the two companies created a spark. “The decision-making is within the family, but they have the efficiency of big companies to bring the decisions to completion. It’s one of the keys to Sierra Blanca Estates’ success and is resonates well with Dolce&Gabbana.”
With the close involvement of the fashion company’s co-founder Domenico Dolce, The One Atelier is in the early stages of working out the aestethics and the functional program of the building “Mr Domenico will share his vision. He’s one of the biggest visionaries we have ever met.”
With Spain’s biggest branded residences developer, a world-famous fashion label, and The One Atelier involved, there’s little doubt this will be another match made in heaven.