Venice is the "floating city", a place of architectural riches, enduring luxury, winding canals and glittering palazzos. Sisters and design duo Viola and Vera Arrivabene are no strangers to this enchanting land, having grown up calling Venice's 16th-century Palazzo Papadopoli home.
The creative pair - who hail from the Savoia dynasty - are the founders of Vibi Venezia, a line of luxury shoes based on the traditional Venetian Furlane slipper. The shoe is an artefact of Venice's rich history which transcends both generation and gender, having been worn by everyone from aristocrats to gondoliers, who favoured them for their luxurious associations and practicality. Begged by friends to fill their suitcases with the chic footwear, the sisters decided to set up a line which combined the key elements of Venetian tradition with contemporary textiles inspired by their travels.
We sat down with Viola and Vera to get the lowdown on the shoe which has become one of our packing essentials for everything from a sun to city break.
Viola and Vera Arrivabene
Between Venice and London
Type of brand:
Tell us a little about the history behind the traditional velvet Furlane slipper which inspired Vibi Venezia.
The Furlane sums up the heart of Venice. Other than being the attire of gondoliers it was a staple in the wardrobes of our ancestors - perfect for sneaking around their chambers in silence! The gondoliers later adopted these plush velvet slippers with their robust rubber soles (traditionally made from old bicycle tires) so as not to ruin the paint on their boats.
How do you think the Furlane reflects the lifestyle and culture in Venice?
You need a pair of stylish but comfortable flat shoes to explore Venice. We design for someone who needs to run from a meeting to an exhibition opening, and then out to dinner with friends.
Who is the Vibi Venezia customer?
Definitely someone who loves travelling and Italian heritage. When we design our shoes, we always think about our own personal style and, of course, our friends. In fact, every pair of shoes is named after a friend or member of our family, or someone who reminds us of that exact pair of Vibis.
How important is craftsmanship and artisan involvement in Vibi Venezia production?
Very. Our shoes are all handmade in a little town in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, just a two-hour drive from Venice. Our craftspeople are all specialists in the artisan techniques involved in making the typical Furlane.
Having founded the Vibi Venezia brand together, what do you bring to the brand as individuals?
Vera and I are very similar but at the same time quite different - we make the perfect match! I'm [Viola] more creative, whereas Vera's more involved on the business side of things.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
The ultimate dream would be to do something with Maria Grazia Chiuri. We are madly in love with the new Dior collections.
What's in your SUITCASE for a weekend in Venice?
A short Dior dress, white GAP T-shirt, a pair of jeans, Osanna Madina Visconti earrings, LGR sunglasses and Sisley sun face cream.
Where would you recommend for a magical evening in Venice?
Do you think travel is important for creative inspiration?
100%. We are always inspired by our travels and learning about different cultures around the world.
Where can we find ViBi Venezia in London?
Where do you go in London to be inspired?
Museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington and the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. Also walking around the vibrant Brick Lane in East London and vintage hunting on Portobello Road in Notting Hill.
What do you think the future holds for Vibi Venezia? Where would you like to see the brand in five years time?
We really want to share Venetian heritage through our shoes all around the world!