Fendi got the New York Fashion Week rolling with a bang. For over a month, the Italian brand has been communicating that it’s planning to hit the Big Apple for a big occasion: the Baguette’s 25th birthday. And what made the eternal it-bag so in-demand for the last two decades? Of course, Sex & The City, the most New York show of all the New York shows. “It was almost like a character,” Kim Jones said. “So I thought let’s do the show here, and let’s add in a few curveballs as we always do.” Sarah Jessica Parker, who sat front row with Kate Moss, Kim Kardashian and Lily Allen, approved the project as the IRL Carrie Bradshaw. She was definitely making a mind-list of her favourite looks for the second season of And Just Like That. That Jones is a prodigious collaborator has been well documented, but the match-ups he orchestrated for the celebratory resort 2023 collection were particularly inspired. Tiffany & Co. was brought in to provide the baguettes – as in diamond baguettes. The double-F logo on the Tiffany blue croc Baguette carried by Bella Hadid was pavéd in the precious stones, and the electric colour of her silk jumpsuit was 100% Tiffany blue.
Another quintessential New York addition: the Marc Jacobs collaboration. Jacobs’s section riffed on his recent collections with block letter intarsias spelling out FendiRoma rather than his own logo on everything from tracksuits and trucker jackets and matching jeans to an oversize terry robe. The faux fur XXL hats, which we’ve seen the last time on his autumn-winter 2012 runway, wowed the audience just like they did a decade ago. “I called Marc up and asked him if he wanted to design a collection for Fendi. I haven’t been involved at all,” Jones explained the collab. “We worked side by side during fittings. We were doing ours, he was doing his. I’m looking very much at 1997, and I think Marc’s is fresh and now.” Jones was after more of a feeling. “I was thinking about when I was first coming to New York and we would go out clubbing,” he said. Hence the irreverent, high/low mix of sequins and utility jackets, or a shearling sherpa and a mini. He meant what he said about utility. Even beanies and gaiters came with built-in Baguettes, as did many of the garments, those shearling sherpas most temptingly. Surprisingly, it all felt very early Sex & The City and Patricia Field style. For the kicker, Linda Evangelista, who is the current face of Fendi, glided out, resplendent in an opera cape, with a sterling silver Baguette bag in the crook of her arm. Jacobs, who joined Jones and Venturini Fendi for a bow, encouraged everyone to stand up – not that the crowd needed any convincing.
Collages by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
While Kim Jones is about to present his vision at Fendi, menswear is Silvia Fendi‘s territory. This collection contained both examples of bed-to-bodega attire, along with gorgeous intarsia shearling coats and powerfully colored piumino pajamas. Hidden in plain sight among them was a look that Silvia Fendi laughingly conceded was arguably this season’s most transgressive: a black evening suit that was made extra thanks to its pajama-acknowledging blue piping and a louchely low double-breasted construction, but which was a black evening suit nonetheless. The collection was all about laid-back and relaxed feel, however layered with luxury. Camel hair topcoats; hooded shearlings; mink liner-jackets – that reflected a collection of pieces she called: “very tactile – so soft you can sleep in them – and also very functional. Clothes that make you feel good. Because I do think that fashion can have a therapeutic aspect.” Accessories included slipper-spats for seamless indoor-outdoor footwear functionality, and mini-trolleys to reflect our shrunken but still aspirational physical horizons. As Fendi demonstrated, many of the garments were reversible to double their dosage of potential therapy. And the population of patients who might benefit, she added, was purposefully broad: “To avoid that fashionista attitude, I like to consider menswear through many different men who keep their personality… I think in the future, fashion is going to be more individualistic, and I wanted to keep that idea in the show.” One attention grabbing aspect was the inclusion of artwork (including that cursive Fendi lettering) by Noel Fielding. Probably best known as a host of more recent series of The Great British Baking Show, Fielding is a stalwart of British alternative comedy – see The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd – of whom Fendi said: “I like him as a man, and he is a multifaceted talent: writing, comedy, music, art. This is something we all have to do today, I think, to change our own skins. And speaking of therapy, in his graphics you can read what you want to see, like colored yarns that have been thrown on the floor to make a pattern.” What Silvia wants, or at least hopes for, she said, is that this collection “will be something that can be worn on the street next winter, and be enjoyed for its bright colors and tactile feel.”
Silvia Venturini Fendi‘s solo vision at Fendi is sublime – so I really wonder why she has appointed Kim Jones as the co-director of the womenswear. Well, I know why – he’s done commercial magic at Dior Men, so why not do the same at Fendi… But back to Silvia’s spring-summer 2021 – again, it’s incredible and it appeared to be a great start of live-slash-digital Milan Fashion Week. It felt so delightfully Italian, as if taken straight out of a Fellini film. The show opened with prints of photographs taken during lockdown by Silvia Venturini Fendi from her bedroom window, which was a nod to the domestic life we’ve all inhabited in the last couple of months. It closed with Leon Dame and Paloma Elsesser amongst those swathed in snuggly satin quilting and pale lace embroidered linens. “This reminded me of Karl,” said Fendi pre-show: “He had a love for bed linen, he had a big collection.” The loungewear and pajamas and floaty wood-printed caftans had a follow-on relationship to last season’s ‘boardroom to boudoir’ collection; “but here,” said Fendi, “she was a little more… sweet.” Much of the collection was cut in barely-dyed but beautifully embroidered linen, a fabric Fendi said she had chosen thanks to its simplicity and sustainability. Runway bags ran from a sweetly naif rattan version of a child’s beach bag to a wicker picnic basket that was a nod to Fendi’s wonderful recent menswear ‘gardening’ collection, co-designed with Luca Guadagnino. And the model casting was amazing, as well: Karen Elson, Maty Fall, Ashley Graham, Eva Herzigova, Yasmin Le Bon, Jill Kortleve and Penelope Tree were all part of a cast as diverse as the swathe of reminiscence Fendi was mustering in this collection. Naturally there were some sections in fur. Maty Fall wore a loosely woven coat of nappa and mink over a floral-pressed romper, while Aliet Sarah a striking skirt of shaved mink ‘lace.’ “I wanted to talk about values,” she explained. “At this time to just talk about fashion seems not enough. I wanted to talk about the values that are behind fashion, and I can tell you that there are a lot. In my family we have always put great meaning into what we do. Here I wanted to achieve clothes that are about the moment, but which also are part of your life, for your life.” By presenting clothes and accessories that whispered of past manifestations of Fendi’s history Silvia was also looking to a future in which garments function as cherished furniture, ever more redolent with memories and meaning in a long and fruitful life.
I really loved Fendi’s autumn-winter 2020 collection. First, no sight of F logos all over the place. Second, Silvia Venturini Fendi nailed the femme fatale look making it simultaneously powerful and confident. Third, the collection’s model casting is a revolutionary moment for Milan, which is considered the most „conservative” of all four fashion capitals. Jill Kortleve and Paloma Elsesser became the first ever so-called “plus size” models to walk a Fendi runway. They looked incredible. And there were also the „veteran” models: Karen Elson (she had completely elevated her grey knit look), Liya Kebede, Carolyn Murphy and Jacquetta Wheeler. Silvia found it frustrating to always present shows whose casts were defined by the sample size. “Especially because you talk to me and I am not really a prototype of that shape. So it’s liberating for me to portray these clothes in a different way, on different sizes.” Yes, two models in a cast of 50 girls seems not much, but still. Big hopes that this isn’t just a one-season thing. Back to the clothes for a moment. Fendi mentioned liberation, and that was the spirit of a show presented on a curvy, pink upholstered runway. The spectrum of that freedom ran from the liberatedly libidinous to the glass-ceiling smashing, or “from the boudoir to the boardroom” as the show-notes put it. The pieces combined executive chic with a sexual tweak. This was a collection that embraced the double standards of male-eye categorization and short-circuited them via disassembly and disguise: dressing up for self-gratification rather than that of others. Silvia Fendi and Miuccia Prada are the only two pre-eminent female designers in Milan. This season, both of them make significant statements on women and femininity.
When Luca Guadagnino does something, I just can’t ignore it. The A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director got invited by Silvia Venturini Fendi to be the guest artist behind Fendi’s spring-summer 2020 collection for men. Fendi and Luca have a long-time relationship: the brand notched associate producer credits on I Am Love, for example, and the two worked on a short film for the label. Guadagnino loves fashion and puts focus on it in his films (remember those Dior by Raf Simons clothes Tilda Swinton wore in A Bigger Splash?). So his vision for the Fendi show felt as if he put his signature, sun-drenched filter on it. Presented in the gorgeous garden of Milan’s Villa Reale, the collection was a nod to gardening and being close to nature. The gardening looks are too pretty to work in, but still, you can fantasize about wearing one of those outfits to check on your carrots: olive-green outerwear with detachable pockets and delightful short-sleeved overall with suede patches, accompanied by clipping baskets, watering cans, and garderning gloves (all with barely visible, Fendi logo). There was a utility vest in botanical-print-organza-clad strips of shearling teamed with a multi-compartment tool bag in leather. Luca and Silvia also came up with soft tailoring with split-hemmed pants arranged around floral-print ties, swimwear teamed with slashed cut-out knits and washed workman’s denim that came sometimes leather-patched. Brilliant.