Chez Dede is one of Rome’s most eclectic boutiques—offering cult-favorite bags, accessories printed with enchanting illustrations, and limited collaborations with artisans from Italy and beyond—but to founders Daria Reina and Andrea Ferolla, it’s so much more. “It’s a way of life, in a way,” Reina says. “It’s also a way to produce, a way to design. It’s a way to work with others and create collaborations.” That mission statement isn’t mere whimsy either; Reina and Ferolla also lead a creative studio, providing design and consulting for hotels, restaurants, and other brands. Chez Dede is the medium in which two world-traveling, adventurous spirits absorb the globe’s vast curiosities and share them freely.
Chez Dede was born in 2011, when the couple noticed that much Italian fashion and textile production was shifting to Asia at the time, leaving many of their countrymen without work. “We said we should do something, because everyone has a responsibility,” Reina explains. “You don’t have to wait for someone else. If you are a creative and you really care about your country and your people, you can do something. So we looked at each other and said, ‘Why don’t we do something with the people that are here, waiting for work?’” It was then that they envisioned their first bag—now a signature of the company—based on Reina’s desire for a universal design that could be used for traveling, shopping, and going to the beach. “The bags I found were always too precious or too casual to do other purposes,” she elaborates. They emblazoned each one with stylized names of cities they had been to and, to gauge the market, they brought them to Pitti Uomo in Florence in 2012. When a line formed for the bags on day two, they knew they had a hit.
Five years later, they couple opened a boutique in Rome, where you can buy the Chez Dede line of bags, scarves, ceramics, and even a ready-to-wear collection, along with limited-edition collaborations and even one-off pieces they’ve collected during their travels. “I always had a coup de coeur—heartbeat—for the old stuff,” Reina says, recalling weekly trips to the flea markets in Belgium with her father. “They bring a life inside the objects. I like the idea that I meet an object, I don’t buy an object. Because it had its life before, I had my life before, and since we met, we have a new life together.” Ferolla had been harboring his own passion for illustration, something he had been doing since he was a child, and suddenly there was a demand in the market. “At this time, illustration was underrated in fashion and advertising; everyone was using photos,” Reina explains. “Now illustrators are back in the system, so everybody is looking for the right illustrator to represent the lifestyle in a hotel or a brand.” Those illustrations have become integral to Chez Dede’s identity, scarves, and plates, alongside the decor they create for hotels and restaurants.
Travel is at the heart of Chez Dede, from the motifs they choose to the items they source to the online journal they regularly update. “For us, traveling is the best form of investment you can make in your life because you grow and you invest in something nobody can steal,” Reina says. “If you buy a jewel, this jewel can be stolen, but if you invest in travel, nobody can steal your experience—it will be with you forever.” Consequently, hotels are integral to their experience, and can facilitate the way they relate to a city. “Many hotels now say, ‘You’re home in St. Tropez or you’re home in Paris.’ We find that so weird, because how can they know how we live at home?” Reina says. “Nobody knows, and I don’t want to be at home when I’m in Miami. I want to be in Miami. I want to live the way they live, I want to experiment with something different: one week when I lose my pasta pomodoro, I lose my comfort zone, and I want to dip in a different way.”
In October, for example, the couple traveled to Miami, where they stayed at the EDITION and lived the way the locals live: by the pool. “You take a photo now here and you feel that maybe it’s something that could have been shot in the ‘60s, it’s not very different,” Reina describes. “I was looking at people sitting with their hats and they looked exactly like a Slim Aarons photo of the ‘60s.” Even during subpar weather conditions, they discovered something special about Miami. “[It] gave us the chance to see how the mood is when it’s not sunny. In Italy if there’s no sun, nobody is at the pool. In Miami everyone was at the pool with the clouds. That gave us the sense that it didn’t matter if there was no sun, they are always in the Miami mood. Miami is a mood, it’s not a town.”
If you could distill the appeal of Chez Dede, it would be entirely in the attitude of its founders. “When you like something and you like someone, you do things with them, and for sure you will have something that will be very, very exciting,” Reina emphasizes. “If you produce something with this purpose and not with the purpose only to [make] money, then you’ll get something that has a strength inside that nothing else can have. No business plan can beat that.” Creativity begets creativity, and the pair have created an idiosyncratic and successful independent boutique by simply following their own curiosity. “We won’t be maybe the richest in 20 years, we won’t be recorded as the most successful in revenue, but for sure one of the best in terms of inspiration and beauty creators,” Reina insists. “I’m quite confident in that.”