We talked to the best-friend turned business partner duo behind Vernisse, the sustainable Rome-based fashion brand: meet Eugenia Penta and Francesca Filipo.
Based in Rome, Eugenia Penta and Francesca Filipo launched sustainable brand Vernisse in 2019, as a celebration of tailor-made and vintage fabrics. Francesca and Eugenia collect fabrics, trims and objects from the past, working with vintage and antique dealers around Italy and Europe to create one-of-a-kind garments that will be passed on from mother to daughter and so on. Discover all about them, what they love about their hometown and how to enjoy Rome living life like Fellini’s Dolce Vita in our insider’s guide.
Can you tell us a bit about where you were raised and your background?
We were both born and raised in Rome and our friendship started in high school.
Then we both left Italy in our early 20s to study and live abroad.
While I (Francesca) studied law in Italy and France before working for an upcoming brand in Milan for three years, Eugenia studied fashion in London and then worked for a ready-to-wear brand before moving to Rome, where she spent 6 years working for a famous luxury brand. After six years on a train from Milan to Rome, both still working for other companies we decided to start Vernisse.
You launched Vernisse in 2019, how has it developed since its beginnings?
We launched Vernisse wanting to create a brand with a sustainable approach, creating garments that would be passed down through generations. Since the beginning, we decided to use vintage fabrics and high-quality discarded offcuts from fashion houses in Europe by breathing life into what would otherwise be considered waste. The philosophy of our brand remains the same while we find new ideas that inspire us. The collection is constantly growing and we’re now working on few special projects that will be released soon.
Has Rome inspired your brand? If so, how?
It may sound a little bit like a cliché but growing up in Rome meant being always exposed to beauty. From the statues, to the churches; from the narrow streets with old trattoria restaurants, offering a classic Italian atmosphere, to the spontaneous chaos of people in the streets. There really is a lot to look at!
In the city center there is a historical district, Largo Argentina, with many fabric boutiques and “mercerie”. Since high school this has been one of our favorite spots to go on a hunt for vintage and unique fabrics.
What do you think makes Rome so attractive and special to foreigners and locals alike? And to you?
Rome offers the unique opportunity to experience an open-air museum of more than 2000 years of history literally at your fingertips! Every corner gives you the opportunity to appreciate this multi strata. Locals, cultured or less, were born into it and naturally express their history. Light especially has something unique. Walking day or night can change how you experience the city, and both should be done.
For us what makes it really special is the fact that everything remains still but also moves slowly – on a different pace. It’s a hard concept to explain but when you’ll feel it, you’ll know.
Where do you suggest staying at? What are your favourite hotels/luxe b&bs?
There are a few spots that we recommend. Hotel Locarno is a hidden gem close to Piazza del Popolo, they also have an amazing terrace; G Rough boutique hotel, which we also recommend for a drink, and The Fifteen Keys Hotel if you want to live and breathe the Monti neighbourhood.
For a full Gio Ponti and Art Deco experience you should book a room at Hotel Mediterraneo, where we had the opportunity to shoot our collection during the lockdown. Then right next to the Quirinale palace you can spend the night at Villa Spalletti, a family villa turned into a boutique luxury hotel run buy its family.
Favourite restaurants and places where one can have a real homey dinner?
What makes Rome stand out is the authenticity and simplicity of most of its restaurants.
Some of these have been family run since generations:
Da Teo and Roma Sparita in Trastevere for a true roman food experience.
Rocco, La Barrique and Valentino in Monti, three totally different restaurants for locals only. Tiberino is the best place to enjoy a sunny lunch on Isola Tiberina, a small island on the Tevere river, charming and authentic.
Then close to Piazza Navona you have Supplizio for a quick lunch (don’t miss their Supplí), Roscioli for its pizza al taglio, Bar Perú for a coffé or a Gin and Tonic and Il Goccetto to enjoy a glass of wine in a typical enoteca til late night.
What are your favourite independent boutiques or vintage shops in Rome where you may go to look for unique pieces or for inspiration?
We are always looking for new secret places in Rome.
One of the centro storico’s finest shopping street is Via di Monserrato with some of our favorite artisan boutiques and independent shops. Chez Dedé with its incredible selection of interiors pieces, books, candles, Il Paralume the best place to create your lampshade with different fabrics and shapes.
Close to Via di Monserrato, Via del Pellegrino is a must, you can go to Gonne al Vento, an incredible vintage shop with a stunning archive where we are always searching for new inspirations and Alain, with a selection of vintage furniture; on the other side of the street you will find a vintage shop with no sign that sells only man’s jackets, suits and coats, perfect for oversize women’s jackets!
If we are on the hunt for some vintage pieces, we love Monti district. We suggest you Flamingo, Pulp and Humana where you’ll find shoes, handbags, belts, clothing and hats. For vintage jewelry a must is Fabio Piccioni, a tiny shop in Via del Boschetto. Then if you’re looking for modern antiques, Wunderkammer is the place to be.
What are the most beautiful alleyways and terraces with a special view?
To enjoy the most beautiful alleyways you have to walk around the historical center, from Piazza Navona to via Monserrato and via Giulia, then Trastevere from Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere to Piazza di Santa Cecilia. Every corner has a story to tell.
We recommend a walk to the Campidoglio Terrace where you will have the most beautiful view of the Colosseum, Palatine, Roman Forum and Domus Aurea. Then terrazza del Gianicolo, with the Acqua Paola fountain, gives you the most famous panoramic terrace in town. From here you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Eternal City.
Your favourite museums?
Our favorite museums are Galleria Borghese and Musei Vaticani, but the list can be endless!
To enjoy a contemporary art tour, go to Maxxi Museum, designed by the legendary Zaha Hadid. You can have a coffee in the bar and spend time in the bookshop to enjoy the museum as a local.
The best breakfast places?
We can’t get enough of Pasticceria Natalizi, one of the best bars offering “Cornetto and Capuccino” in Rome.
Other special places in the city center: La Buvette close to Piazza di Spagna, Caffè Sant’Eustachio next to the Pantheon and G-rough hotel for a proper continental breakfast.
Now the question everyone’s waiting for: where to go for a great matriciana, gricia or carbonara?
The list could be endless, if we have to pick three, we’d recommend: Enzo al 29 in Trastevere, Tonino on via del Governo Vecchio for his gricia and Roscioli restaurant for the cacio e pepe.
The unknown places for haberdashery?
When we are on hunt for something special, we go to flea markets. For us, Sundays at Porta Portese are a classic. We found many vintage trims there and used them in our Vernisse collections.
A safe bet is the ‘Haberdashery district’ in Largo Argentina where you will find Alfis and Branciforte the oldest in the city center.
Where to go to escape the heat of the city?
If you want to stay closer to Rome go to Santa Marinella, an authentic gem that will bring you back to the 60’s and 70’s. Grab a pizzetta at Gigi’s Bar (a tiny bakery) and enjoy a charming dinner by the sea at La Sassola.
During summer weekends, Ponza island is one of the roman’s favorite destination. Very close to the city with a true Caribbean like sea!
Just one hour from Rome you can visit The Bomarzo Garden also called the Park of the monsters, a Mannerist monumental complex located in the Sacred Grove of Bomarzo. You will walk around the grove surrounded by many monstrous statues and a strange building built in the 16th century.
Last but not least, a lunch in Fregene. Nothing fancy but very authentic, La Nave is our favorite restaurant there. The food is incredible (don’t miss their “moscardini”!), however what we really like is the retro architecture which makes going to this place magical.