MILAN — Karl Lagerfeld needs no introduction. For Silvia Venturini Fendi, he is also a “mentor and a point of reference,” so for fall, she turned to the legendary designer for inspiration. And for the first time at Fendi, Lagerfeld has designed a men’s look, which will be part of the lineup presented on the runway today.
“After several seasons collaborating with guest artists, it was natural for me — I felt like asking Karl as a style icon, and his way of dressing inspired me,” Venturini Fendi told WWD, as she has in the past worked with the likes of Nico Vascellari, Reilly Hey and Sue Tilley. The designer, referring to the many women in her family, said Lagerfeld was the “male point of reference” for them and for the company.
“I asked him if he wanted to participate and he accepted immediately, sending me a sketch with a marvelous silhouette.”
Venturini Fendi said the collection will juxtapose classicism with futurism. “I was rethinking how to reinvent formal tailoring,” she mused. The jacket has an architectural shape, the designer explained, with an asymmetric neckline, a shawl collar on one side and a classic lapel on the other. “This dualism informed the collection,” she said.
“I’ve been asked what it’s like to work with Karl countless times, and this is an answer to that question,” said Venturini Fendi, who created a patchwork of Fendi logos from the Eighties until today, for example, with several other references to the designer — from old photos and sketches to his fan.
“He loves to send packages, he sends photos of a page in a book with his iPhone. All these contrasts created the mood board for the collection and prints. This is a style that I have known all my life and that has inspired me so much. I remember Karl in his early days, when he would wear Caraceni made-to-measure suits or two shirts, one over the other. He is more dark rock now,” Venturini Fendi said.
She talked of the collection’s metallic fabrics, natural colors from beige to brown and a fabric that looks dipped in gold.
At a time when sportswear is so relevant, Venturini Fendi said she is integrating more formal designs. “Classic is subversive now,” she said with a small laugh.
“This fall-winter 2019-20 collection is very modern with new materials and unexpected patterns, with influences from the women’s world,” said Lagerfeld. “It’s going to be a onetime collection as we never do repetitions! I sent a letter to Silvia and everything came very naturally. We have worked together for so many years that talking to her is like talking to myself. I have known her since she was five years old and now she is a woman, a mother and a grandmother.…It’s a deep, human relationship that has been lasting for more than 50 years, I think there is no need for more explanations. I am really sorry that I won’t be there with Silvia the day of the show, but what I would like to say to her is: ‘Good luck’. But I am sure it’s going to be a success.”
On the sketch for Venturini Fendi sent to WWD, Lagerfeld wrote, “My dear Silvia, for boys and girls, it’s nice with straight lapels. Je t’embrasse fort [A strong hug]. Love, Karl.”
Chairman and chief executive officer Serge Brunschwig said Venturini Fendi’s “idea [for the collection] was a real surprise to me and to Karl — it’s a wonderful idea and it’s a great pleasure to us that he accepted. He is very tactful about it, and realized it was very important for Silvia, who was super sincere about it, after 53 years Karl has been with Fendi. Yet this is all new, there is a lot of freshness and enthusiasm in the project, it’s superexciting and another step in the life of Fendi Man with a capital ‘M.’ Karl’s partnership with Fendi may be one of the longest in the industry, but it still develops new ideas.”
Asked about men’s return to formalwear, Brunschwig said “it never stopped” for Fendi, but he conceded that there is a renewed demand in the category. “The market needs more offer in tailoring,” he said, adding that this was “a good moment” for the brand’s men’s division.