Fashion Cafe was a restaurant based in New York City featuring celebrity models. Francesco Buti and Tommaso Buti founded the restaurant in 1995 and were arrested in Italy for fraud, bankruptcy, and money laundering in 1998. The business was initially fronted by super models Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Christy Turlington. The Associated Press called the chain "a couture version of Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe."
Brothers Tommaso and Francesco Buti are each charged in New York State USA and Milan with 35 counts of wire fraud, 14 counts of stolen property transportation, 1 count of money laundering and 1 count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to transport stolen property in interstate and foreign commerce. They could face fines and prison terms of 5 to 20 years on each count.
The chain first opened in Rockefeller Center, New York City in 1995. On Monday May 6, 1996, construction began on the London branch of the chain, though the London branch went bust in 1998, a year after it opened. The London and New York locations became the primary locations of Fashion Cafe. Fashion Cafe encountered difficulties from the beginning. Matt Haig, author of Brand Failures, said that "The connection between models and food was not an obvious one, and 'fashion' was not a theme that made people feel hungry."
Once the chain encountered difficulties, Campbell and MacPherson accused Tommaso Buti of stealing 10 000 USD a day from company's money to cover debt for his personal lavish playboy lifestyle, after asking the two to invest in the chain. Schiffer withdrew from the venture, blaming old issues with Campbell. The Rockefeller Center Fashion Cafe closed in 1998. On December 11, 2000 the Federal Government of the United States filed charges against the founders, accusing them of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering.
- Saulny, Susan. "Businessmen Who Created Fashion Cafe Are Hit With Fraud Charges." The New York Times. December 12, 2000. 1. Retrieved on July 5, 2011.
- "Fashion Cafe, Planet Hollywood square off." Spartanburg Herald-Journal. May 8, 1996. A2. Retrieved from Google Books (2 of 22) on July 5, 2011.
- "Trendy celebrity crowd packs opening of chic Fashion Cafe." Associated Press at the Bangor Daily News. Monday April 10, 1995. C6. Retrieved from Google Books (33 of 41) on July 5, 2011.
- Haig, Matt. Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Times. Kogan Page Publishers, 2011. 141. Retrieved from Google Books on July 5, 2011. ISBN 0-7494-6299-X, 9780749462994.
- Saulny, Susan. "Businessmen Who Created Fashion Cafe Are Hit With Fraud Charges." The New York Times. December 12, 2000. 2. Retrieved on July 5, 2011.