It’s 11 on a Thursday morning in the newly opened Marchesi 1824 in the heart of London’s fashionable Mayfair. Two Japanese tourists sit opposite each other sipping cappuccinos, silently scrolling through their phones, while an English businessman is standing at the bar downing an espresso. An orderly queue has already formed next door outside Maison Goyard, the leather-goods emporium, and across Mount Street limousines slide up to the entrance of the Connaught. Welcome to a rarefied world where high fashion meets higher calorie counts. And it’s going global.
If you have ever stumbled upon the original Marchesi, on Milan’s Via Santa Maria alla Porta, you know it’s a charming spot. Founded in 1824 and known for its pastries, cakes, sweets, and panettone, it’s a popular local pit stop for a coffee or an aperitivo. But in 2014, a slightly unlikely fairy godmother in the shape of an Italian luxury-goods conglomerate materialized to secure its future: the Prada Group.