MILAN — While she certainly prizes functionality in handbags, Silvia Venturini Fendi also appreciates pure fantasy.
Accordingly, she has invited five artists and industrial designers of various nationalities to reinterpret her Peekaboo bag, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, as part of another decade-long milestone: Fendi’s partnership with Design Miami.
The initiative includes the American Chris Wolston; the Japanese Kiichiro Ogawa; the Hong Kong-born Oscar Wang; the Korean Teo Yang; and the Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis.
“Honestly, I am very interested in being surprised by different points of view on something familiar that becomes unexpected, and each artist had a very personal take,” Venturini Fendi told WWD in an exclusive interview. “I like that each artist is very different.” What’s more, the artists succeeded in transforming the bags “into objects beyond their functionality — they are like small sculptures,” she added.
Marcelis is also in charge of a project called “The Shapes of Water,” comprising 10 fountains inspired by 10 Fendi symbols, ranging from the architecture of the brand’s Roman headquarters at Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana to its FF logo conceived by Karl Lagerfeld in 1965. These designs will be on display at Design Miami, running Dec. 5–9.
“I increasingly like challenges and the artists’ work showed how the shape of the Peekaboo is interesting and versatile,” mused Venturini Fendi, who designed her own limited-edition Peekaboo bag available for sale at Fendi’s Miami boutique during Design Miami week. The Peekaboos designed by Wolston, Ogawa, Wang, Yang and Marcelis will also bow at the Fendi store in the Design District with a special event on Dec. 5, displayed on special podiums in hues of yellow created by Marcelis.
“When I received the Peekaboo, instead of embellishing or decorating it, I wanted to celebrate its pure form and what makes it special, not add to it,” explained Marcelis. “The shape is very simple but the hardware is beautiful, and there is beauty in its simplicity.” Marcelis said it was her first time developing a fashion object in this way. “It’s very cool of Fendi to be so trusting, it’s a nice way to work,” she added.
Marcelis, who runs her practice from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, said she froze the design within a resin block, allowing “translucent colors” to emphasize the shape of the bag.
Venturini Fendi praised Marcelis’ “different, artistic approach, without thinking of functionality,” and the “volumes, the light, the shadow, She knows how to work through the senses.”
Venturini Fendi underscored the “strong link” with Design Miami. “We believed in it since early on and our interest has grown since then. It’s such an important event and it was important to connect the anniversaries. When we first attended Design Miami, we were the only ones from the fashion world, now it’s become an event that cannot be missed because of its fully rounded creativity. There are many other fashion houses there today, which proves its cultural energy.”
Venturini Fendi said she chose her five collaborators because “they are very different from one another, with different cultural backgrounds, from different nationalities and disciplines.”
Starting from a canvas Peekaboo, cutting tropical leaf and flower motifs from sheets of recycled aluminum and anodizing them in electric splashes of color, Wolston, whose collections include furniture, lighting, seating and accessories, transformed the bag into a sculptural artifact, combining traditional techniques with playful adaptations of materials.
Ogawa expressed the importance of elegance with his take on the Peekaboo, with some cracks and paint splashes on the bag’s surface, while Wang, the son of artist Sylvia Chang, was inspired by the values and ethical principles of his family, described as a wolf pack, hence the idea of a “mosaic wolf skin printed canvas.” Korean women and their evolution are the inspiration behind Yang’s Peekaboo with an illustration of an abstract female figure from a Chosun Dynasty scene he has drawn on the canvas bag.
For “The Shapes of Water” project, Marcelis created unexpected optical effects and unique chromatic shades with 10 fountains made of cast resin, embedding in each one of them a new version of the brand’s symbols. The fountains will be exhibited on a plinth of travertine, the same stone that is found in the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The building, also known as the Square Colosseum, inspired one of the 10 fountains. “The elements of nature, the light and the sky, and the stone, the travertine blocks and the monumentality are reminiscent of the Palazzo della Civiltà,” said Venturini Fendi.
Two fountains are dedicated to Fendi’s FF logo: the first one is developed horizontally and cradles water in a shallow pool on top of a solid cast resin block, whereas the second one, taller and displayed vertically, has the FF carved out of a similar block of resin, with water gently bubbling through.
Another fountain is dedicated to Fendi’s fur expertise and specifically Lagerfeld’s 1972 Astuccio fur with a crossed pattern. This is the tallest of the 10 fountains and the hues on the two crossed resin panels recall the change of light at sunset on the Tiber river in summer.
The remaining fountains reference Fendi’s sartorial craftsmanship in fur and leather.
Marcelis’ take on the Peekaboo for this project will be placed at the entrance of the booth at Design Miami.
Water and Rome’s fountains are central elements for Fendi since 1977, when, to present its first ready-to-wear collection, the brand realized the first film in the history of fashion: “Histoire d’Eau,” written and directed by Jacques de Bascher.
In 2013, Fendi went on to preserve and restore the Trevi Fountain and several other fountains through the Fendi for Fountains initiative. These landmarks were photographed that year by Lagerfeld for the project titled “The Glory of Water.“ In July 2016, to celebrate the company’s 90th anniversary, Fendi held its Haute Fourrure show at the Trevi Fountain.
Handbags and leather goods are a key business for Fendi and the company is planning to start construction of a new plant dedicated to the category in March or April next year. To be located in Bagno a Ripoli, near Florence and close to another existing Fendi site, it is expected to be completed in 2020.