From intarsia shaved mink coats inspired by ornate Roman marble and porphyry floors, to stunning capes finished with cashmere printed like seriated marble, half the looks echoed ancient building materials.
Except these were all very much new textiles. Take a brilliant wrap coat that mimicked reinforced Renaissance windows’ crisscross wrought iron patterns. Except this fashionable “new material” was made of a complicated raffia lattice overlaid with tiny stripes of shaved mink.
Some 600 guests gathered at the Temple of Venus and Roma, the largest temple in Ancient Rome, dedicated to Venus Felix, or the bringer of good fortune. Fendi built an elaborate set, mimicking the tufa of 1930 Rationalist-era buildings – like the brand’s own headquarters, the giant Palazzo della Civiltà.
So, the first models marched up into the set with the Coliseum as their backdrop, into an audience that included Catherine Zeta-Jones, Susan Sarandon, Zendaya and small squadron of local noble beauties from what’s known locally as the Black Aristocracy. Membership of which requires that your clan has at least one pope and one saint in the family tree.
The collection marked the first couture show by Fendi since the passing of Karl Lagerfeld on February. Nonetheless, his spirit felt very present. Such as the brave technical displays, like the remarkable second look – intarsia mink that was hyper malleable but looked lifted from the back of Medici Chapel.
Fendi’s CEO, Serge Brunschwig, had first visited the site back in September and only gave the project the green light after Lagerfeld’s enthusiastic approval.
From the cast all the way to the music, the whole event felt in synch with Lagerfeld’s legacy even as it moved it forward. Like the soundtrack – Bolognese techno chanteuse Caterina Barbieri – picked by Karl’s long-time sound architect, Michel Gaubert. She mashed up space-y techno spinning with her own primal growls and almost Gregorian chants.
The fashion also respected Karl’s other great contribution to Fendi – levity. There were several remarkable gossamer light gowns and a semi-sheer organza layered dress worn on an ebony black model with a Mireille Darc wig that was stupendous.
“Every time you come to Fendi you need to be amazed… In this case, everything is about the contrast between the past and the future. Where marble is made into a flexible textile,” said the house’s creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi, who added that, in the era of sustainability, there were even recycled fur looks.
Post-show, guests wandered leisurely up the carpeted paths of Ancient Rome, past the Arch of Titus; looking down over on the House of the Vestal Virgins; to reach the Vigna Barberini, a high esplanade created for giant feasts and fetes overlooking the Eternal City. Built on the Palatine Hill, the home of emperors for several centuries.
Fendi’s DNA laid out before its guests, who dined al fresco on Peicatoris Mare Nostrum; that’s Latin for fresh fish from ‘Our Sea’, meaning the Mediterranean.
For this was Fendi being very much in Casa Nostrum; at home in the cradle of Western civilization re-imagining its roots to create a surprising present.
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