CANNES, France — “I don’t count, I’m very much against these kinds of celebrations,” declared Karl Lagerfeld about “Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld,” a new book looking back at his tenure as creative director of the Roman furrier, which he joined in 1965.
“I personally don’t care. For me, what’s important is now and tomorrow,” he explained at La Plage Royale, a beach restaurant neighboring the Palais des Festivals in Cannes.
The book is as unconventional as the designer’s 50-year collaboration, billed as the longest relationship in history between a designer and a fashion brand. In fact, it’s a wooden box full of goodies: There is a scrapbook with more than 200 sketches of directional Fendi looks done by the designer, a Q&A session and a USB stick with MP4 files that show Lagerfeld sketching his memories live as he speaks.
“Before Karl joined Fendi, it was a very traditional house doing fur,” said chief executive officer Pietro Beccari. “But he changed it into something very modern, peeling fur, mixing it with other fabrics. He really treated it badly. He took sable, the most precious of all materials, and reduced it to pieces. Nobody had ever dared doing that before,” he noted, drawing a parallel between the brand’s image and the book: “Every page is a provocation and an offense to rationality.”
“Respect kills creativity,” Lagerfeld concurred. Back in the day, “fur was the first step for social recognition, when a wealthy woman received a fur coat as a present from her husband,” as he explains in the book.
But to him it was mostly fun. “Fur and fun have the same initials, that’s why I put the two letters together.” The double FF, as in “fun fur,” which today ranks among the most recognizable logos, was born, and the bourgeois furs disappeared.
Knitted fur and pieces weighing no more than 500 grams, which equals the average weight of a cashmere sweater, are arguably among the most revolutionary techniques Lagerfeld introduced over the years.
“We will never know what Fendi would be like without Karl. He calls himself mercenary, but I don’t think so,” Beccari mused. “I think he is just very curious, and loves what he does until he does it, then he forgets about it,” which makes room for new ideas, the executive added.
The book, published by Steidl, will be available at Fendi boutiques and high-end bookstores around the world from July at a price of about 100 euros, or $111 at current exchange.
Following the presentation, Fendi reopened its Cannes shop the Croisette, which has been redesigned in lighter colors, putting a focus on the brand’s craftsmanship as well as ready-to-wear, a fast-growing category.
“We are the only luxury design company having an internal atelier for fur, producing 70 percent of fur in-house and controlling 100 percent of quality. All experience combined we have 500 years of craftsmanship in-house,” boasted Beccari.
Asked about his biggest achievement, Lagerfeld teased: “I did maybe OK, but who cares?”