Viola and Vera Arrivabene grew up in Venice’s 16th century Palazzo Papadopoli and hail from the Italian Savoia dynasty. Two years ago, the sisters (ages 25 and 23, respectively) launched Vibi Venezia, a line of Venetian furlanes, the slippers traditionally worn by Venetian gondoliers.
And in rapid fashion, the label has found favor with the international style set — not least Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani and blogger Camille Charrière.
“Everyone always asked us to bring them back a pair of furlanes when we went home to Venice,” Viola told Footwear News, “but they were either too big, too small or not the right color.” And from there, the idea for the brand was born.
Their shoes are handmade in a tiny factory, by one artisan, and while the original velvet options prove enduringly popular, more-contemporary canvas models have also become top sellers.
The sisters’ passion for craftsmanship presumably comes from their father, Count Giberto Arrivabene, who designs traditional Murano glassware as a hobby, under the label Giberto Venezia.
The same goes for their entrepreneurial spirit: A few years ago, due to the spiraling costs of maintaining a palazzo, the count leased the property to Aman Resorts, and George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin were married on the property in 2014.
The family, however, still retains an apartment on the top floor. “ ‘Eloise’ [Kay Thompson’s books about the girl who lives at the top of New York’s Plaza Hotel] was my favorite story when I was a kid,” said Viola, whose bedroom window overlooks the Grand Canal.
Retailing for around 65 to 84 euros (or $70 to $90 at current exchange), the Vibi Venezia slippers are sold online, at London concept store Alex Eagle and at boutique hotels including Soho House Berlin and Emporio Sirenuse in Positano, Italy. In addition, the brand is focused on breaking into the U.S. and is hosting a pop-up in New York at the hip Random Acts of Creativity storefront through Dec. 22.
And available now is a special holiday capsule with limited-edition tweed and tartan fabrications, selling on Vibi’s website for 86 euro (or $93).