BEIJING — Taking luxury — and event marketing — to an audacious new summit, Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld on Friday staged a sunset fashion show atop the Great Wall of China, capped off with giant double-F logos projected onto neighboring mountains.
"I think it's the first fashion show visible from the moon," Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, joked a few hours before 500 guests climbed steep stone steps to witness Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini-Fendi stroll down the 2,000-year-old structure to a rousing ovation. "It's a big sign that China is the place where things are happening today."
And how. The actresses Ziyi Zhang, Kate Bosworth and Thandie Newton joined LVMH brass, Beijing power players, Hong Kong and New York socialites and an army of press for an extravaganza said to have cost upward of $10 million.
"This is about positioning Fendi for the next 50 years," declared Fendi chief executive Michael Burke, asserting: "This is not a Chinese event; it's a world event."
With a section of the awe-inspiring, 4,000-mile-long structure snaking up the mountain behind them, 88 models walked a runway 88 meters long (the esteemed number eight connoting prosperity in China) in an expanded version of Fendi's spring-summer collection.
"It was absolutely magnificent," said Bosworth, who will be racking up more air miles with her role as a knife-thrower in "The Laundry Warrior," filming soon in New Zealand. "It was definitely the first time I took my camera out more than the photographers."
"Beautiful, amazing," concurred Ziyi, decked out in a burnout-print Fendi fur to ward off Beijing's evening chill. (Though she needn't have, since the bench-style seats were heated and all the ladies were draped in black Fendi cashmere shawls.)
Burke noted the collection — featuring clothes based on a circle motif that is a Chinese symbol of happiness, and the relaunch of its iconic Baguette bag — is Fendi's most successful to date, posting a year-on-year increase of 30 percent.
Although countless fashion shows and other trade events have been staged at the foot of the Great Wall, Burke said it's the first time a fashion show has been staged on top of it, with Fendi constructing a sloping runway lined with disco lights atop a picturesque section of the Juyongguan Pass, 30 miles northwest of the bustling, traffic-clogged Chinese capital.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"