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Fendi Fall 2019 Couture Show


“We dominate the city from here!” declared Silvia Venturini Fendi exultantly before her show, surveying Rome’s Coliseum from the Palatine Hill. “The city was founded on this hill,” Venturini Fendi added, “the first stone of Rome was laid here by Romulus.”

Karl Lagerfeld had been enthusiastic about the prospect of a show set against this magnificent backdrop, and of the Fendi company’s underwriting of the restoration of the Temple of Venus and Roma, built by the emperor Hadrian in 121 (where the post-collection dinner for 600 would be held al fresco under the moonlight).

Venturini Fendi explained that her collection was an homage to the late designer who revolutionized fur with his innovative designs and transformed the company—founded by her grandparents Adele and Eduardo Fendi in 1925—into a design force and a global luxury powerhouse in the 54 years that he designed for it.

For Venturini Fendi, Lagerfeld’s legacy includes not only the skills and techniques that he inspired those workrooms to develop, but “his attitude to break rules and push boundaries.” For him, she added, “nothing was ever impossible, and that’s what we all tried for.”

The supremely elegant collection celebrated the astonishing feats that the Fendi workrooms are capable of.

The clothes took their cue from the floors of Rome—of the ancient mosaics, time-worn terra cotta or stone, and the marble that once clad the Coliseum itself, and then of the plants growing up through those monuments, and the sturdy roots linking them to the strata of the city’s history. These were a tour de force of complex intarsia work that looked from afar like geometric prints.

The opening looks set the tone, evoking Lagerfeld’s early ’70s glory years when he first made himself felt as a design force at Chloé and Fendi: from the Abba-tastic pudding bowl wig to the ‘rock crystal’ heels. The show opened with a shapely white felted wool suit with a full-sleeved jacket and wide boot-leg pants. In this period mood there were maxi coats with fur strips worked in different directions or sheared to create Deco patterns in other Lagerfeld signature inventions. Every coat was reversible, and one example—a swaggering, ankle grazing duster of faille lined in darkest sable (and worn with a chunky medallion and attitude)—paid homage to the Fendi costuming of Silvana Mangano for Luchino Visconti’s iconic 1975 movie Conversation Piece.

Mindful of global warming, and on a sultry Roman day that saw the thermometer bubble to 35 degrees Celsius, Venturini Fendi had also noted that even furs need to be “lighter and lighter.” This meant ‘bricks’ of finely sheared fur or fabric pieces with sheer tulle as the ‘grout.’ For this Fall collection there were even sheer black ballgowns, worn over marbled print sports bras.

The evening gowns—shown under the slither of a picture perfect crescent moon—bloomed with a Renaissance beauty: flowing Juliet dresses in rose or celadon quartz-colored chiffon embroidered with sheaves of wheat or trembling tendrils like the powdery stamens of lilies, and magnificent ballgowns that might have excited a Titian or Bronzino. Like the haunting live soundtrack by Caterina Barbieri, the virtuosic composer, the clothes evoked a mystic past but remained firmly rooted in the present and the future, proving that the ever inventive, questing Venturini Fendi and her team are able standard bearers of the Lagerfeld legacy.


Photo: Salvatore Dragone /


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