Since the newly appointed creative director Kim Jones’ made his debut for Fendi during Haute Couture week in January, the industry has been sifting for clues on what the future of the house would look like in the future. The late Karl Lagerfeld was a towering figure as the designer of Fendi womenswear for more than half a century, so this was a changing of the guards that was momentous like no other. Fendi is one of fashion’s great matriarchies and the label was established by Adele and Edoardo Fendi in 1925. It then thrived under the five Fendi sisters, Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla and Alda. It was they who brought Lagerfeld into the fold in 1965. While the brand is no longer owned by the Fendi family, several members of the family are still involved in various aspects of the business, with Silvia Venturini Fendi holding the role of creative director for menswear and accessories (she also worked closely with Lagerfeld for the women’s collections over many decades).
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Jones, in his first women’s ready-to-wear collection for the Italian label chose to translate the house codes in the form of an intimate communication with the Fendi woman as he sees her. And the narrative started with the five sisters and Silva Fendi, whose daily uniforms inspired the collection. There are workwear archetypes of tailored separates, jumpsuits and classic coats, and easy dresses that would pass the day-to-night test, always exhibiting that feast of textures typifying the houses’s experimentation with fur and leather.
Framed in tonal stories, the collection presented like the well organised, colour-coded wardrobe of a woman of the world. And in each look, you get a feeling of intimacy. Soft knitted pieces and body-skimming silk look luxurious and comfortable against bare skin, bringing to mind the feeling of having thrown on your favourite coat — and nothing underneath — to run out on a cold day.
What Jones conveyed in the collection is the idea of luxury that is more for the wearer to feel than for the world to perceive. Straight forward silhouettes and muted colours let luxurious fabrics and masterful tailoring speak for themselves. Even logomania is done as an act of subterfuge. The “Karligraphy’ monogram is interspersed in jewellery and hardware, and embroidered on dresses and tights that peek under coats, so that, while all-pervasive in the collection, they reveal themselves only upon closer inspection.
Treading lightly on reinventing the house codes, Jones’ departure from Largerfeld’s Fendi come in a languid effortlessness that contrast the signature structure and decadence of previous collections. Coats and blazers are relaxed, with fluffy shearling scarves draping haphazardly over one shoulder. Fabrics are also light and easy — jersey dresses that softly hug the shoulders; silk pyjamas-like two-piece sets, where the cropped shirts are sometimes buttoned, and sometimes sensuously knotted at the front. The little shorts and mini dresses under fur coats, and bralettes peeking out from under what would otherwise be a business-like ensembles, give off a low-key tomboyishness.
This collection may not signal an about-face for Fendi under Jones, but, as echoed in the change of the contents of the F-shaped glass enclosures of the set (from books of the Bloomsbury group in the Haute Couture show, to Roman ruins here for Ready-to-Wear), we see glimpses of Jones’ England in Rome.