The highlight of Paris Couture Week ironically didn’t happen in Paris. An intense four days of shows and presentations in the French capital led the fashion pack on a private jet, double F journey to the Eternal City. With cathedral bells chiming in the background, and the heat rising from one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the stage was set for Rome to be crowned as the jewel of couture week. We were flown in to witness Fendi’s 90th anniversary celebrations. And it centred around one of the most iconic fountains in the world—the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). After a restoration project that cost over USD3 million, Fendi flourished its worthy cause with a show to end all shows.
“Legends and Fairytales” was the theme for Fendi’s second haute fourrure show. As the sun set on another hot and humid day in Rome, on 7 July, 2016, all eyes and ears stayed focused on the magnificent fountain that has given hope to the millions that toss coins in its magical waters. Witnessing Fendi’s show at the Trevi Fountain, across a crystal runway that gave the illusion of models walking on water, one can’t help but gasp at the audacity and genius of a House celebrated for its fur, leather and luxurious bags. Granting everyone’s fashion wish in spades, as the fresh waters gushed out from the mouths and shells of the marble statues that make up the Trevi Fountain, lithe maidens in fantastical pastel fashion floated across the runway of dreams. In a collection inspired by illustrations from a Norwegian children’s book called East of the Sun, West of the Moon, by Danish artist Kay Nielsen, Lagerfeld took his Italian hat at Fendi on a light fantastic runway of capes, empire gowns, organza dresses and magical coats.
From where we were seated in front of the fountain, watching water sprouting from the mouths of mythical gods, these runway maidens looked like fashion offerings to a god who appreciated fantastical fur. Because, on closer inspection the next day at the re-see, we noticed that the naive sketches and renderings from the book were realised in the hundreds of tufted exotic fur, fine feathers (Lagerfeld called on the Chanel-owned, French feather house of Lemarie) and supple leather. Yes, Lagerfeld came up with the brilliant ideas and sketches, but it was Nielsen’s imagination together with contemporary artists Katy Bailey and Charlotte Gastaut that helped mould them into true works of art.
And this was where the incredible fur ateliers showed their might—from feather-light mink cut into floral petals in a million shades, to Persian lamb laser-cut into an entire pink coat that was so fine and light, you could wear it on a hot summer’s day. Fur, in Fendi’s hands, are not the stuff of granny attics or vintage shops. Fendi furs are technological wizardry and know-how fashioned into wonderfully modern fashion; that take reference in shape and silhouettes from the past—cue mink capes with forest illustrations, or dramatic organza gowns stitched with dancing maidens in fox, and sable birds in flight.
Forty-six looks wafted down the crystal runway, each adding another chapter to the fairy tales, that, in the crescendo of the finale walk-through, came together to form a children’s book of dreams that adults can’t wait to wear. By going back to a naive past, and taking the modern realities of how fur can be manipulated, stretched, coloured and dissected until it’s soft and as light as silk, the house of Fendi showed off its expertise; its skill spanning 90 years, that till today, no-one else can compete with. It’s a rich history harnessed to produce fashion that truly is fur-bulous—the fluff of dreams.
By Kenneth Goh