Values. Fendi SS21

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

From The Boudoir To The Boardroom. Fendi AW20

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Luca Guadagnino and Gardening. Fendi SS20

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Last of Karl. Fendi AW19

The news of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing away broke more than a week ago, and writing about his very final collection for Fendi seems like a struggle of using the right tense. It’s unbelievable he’s no longer here, with us. I always thought Karl will be present, forever. And just like that, it’s a season without him and his guaranteed, confident presence. Fendi’s autumn-winter 2019 was a tribute that wasn’t entirely a tribute, since Lagerfeld worked on majority of the collection – even though he was aware that his health is dangerously stumbling. After the models walked the runway, Silvia Venturini Fendi took a grieving bow. Karl’s last instruction given to Silvia was: “I want the bow” at the neck of the opening look. That was a nod to his own, unmistakable look. It’s difficult to write about the clothes from this collection as if this was just another Fendi collection. There was lightness in the pleated skirts. There was impressive craftsmanship involved, like the laser-cut “lattice” jackets and dresses. And, of course, there was the FF type face used on pretty much everything. It came from Karl’s calligraphy for the house from 1981. The models – most of them owe the designer their success by being his Fendi or Chanel muses – were visibly very emotional, but they walked their best, for Karl. Since 1965, he’s been at the helm of the brand – it’s probably the longest relationship between a brand and a designer in history – and now he’s gone. Venturini Fendi is taking the lead of the brand’s creative direction, but let’s leave the questions regarding the future of the brand for later. Rome, the city were Fendi was born, is in mourning: the brand’s flagship store on Via Condotti covered all of its window displays with Karl’s sketches of his designs for the house. Chanel faces the painful loss too, so does Paris.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.