ROME — “I feel so proud of being human — I also feel little, but proud to see the human touch survive through centuries and buildings still standing after so many years,” Silvia Venturini Fendi mused ahead of the Fendi couture show in Rome on Thursday evening.
Referring to the impressive venue — the Temple of Venus and Rome overlooking the Colosseum and “dominating the city” — the designer felt an additional dose of “power” that would help her “close a circle” at a sensitive moment in her personal life and career, after working so closely with Karl Lagerfeld. Venturini Fendi underscored that the show venue had been decided upon with Lagerfeld and that he had presented her with a book on the Vienna Secession art movement, which influenced the collection, as did his 54 years designing fur and ready-to-wear for the brand. The Italian capital, its mosaics and marble works also strongly informed the collection, dubbed “The Dawn of Romanity.”
“I wanted to go back to the roots so linked to Karl: You become the company after 54 years, so this collection is dedicated to Karl but it’s also something new,” said Venturini Fendi, who also turned to nature as an inspiration. “Walking through the Archaeological Park [on the Palatine Hill surrounding the Temple of Venus and Rome], I noticed how new, beautiful plants always have a way to come alive through the old stones,” she said.
Marking the first Fendi couture show without Lagerfeld, this sense of newness — which would have perfectly suited the late designer, said Venturini Fendi — was also touted by chairman and chief executive officer Serge Brunschwig, together with a solid element of continuity.
Lauding Venturini Fendi’s strength and courage, he said she was easing into the driver’s seat as “a natural evolution.” So much so that he waved away any announcement regarding the creative direction of the brand. “Her name was up there with Karl’s, and it remains there,” he said. “We are super proud to be able to bring this to fruition and hold the show at the Temple. We suggested it to Karl last October and he was immediately on board. This is to honor him,” he said, noting 600 guests were expected.
As reported, Fendi will donate 2.5 million euros to restore the site over a two- to three-year period — yet another initiative to give back to the city, after supporting the restoration of the Trevi Fountain, where the company held a show in 2016, and other sites in Rome, including the Palazzo della Civiltà headquarters, where Venturini Fendi and Brunschwig have decided to exhibit the couture collection starting the day after the show and for a week, open to the public. “In the same spirit of the restorations, we want to bring new life to the building,” Brunschwig said. As an example, he said that 16,000 people watched its artisans at work during the three-day Journées Particulières event held at the Palazzo in October by parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Fendi’s “very refined craftsmanship” is reflected by the brand’s couture, which is performing “super well,” and is “an immediate draw” for the client. Price is not an issue for this customer, who is looking for luxury and wants “only the best, unique and innovative things,” explained Brunschwig, citing for example a special raffia and mink weave as a new technique. “We are super committed, (couture) is a very important activity for us,” he underscored, adding that next year Fendi will return to the Paris couture calendar. He did not identify one specific market as the most relevant. “Our couture clients come from all over the world. They find that creativity is beauty,” he said.
Fendi is also putting this creativity to the test by upcycling fur, also in couture. “It’s a nice experiment, we must develop it, it’s the air du temps [it’s in the air],” he said.
Asked to comment on the fur-synthetic fur debate, Brunschwig said he was “all for freedom, I don’t give lessons to anybody, but these are extraordinary pieces of art. There is creativity at a level that is incredible and fur can be incredibly creative. I am proud of what we are doing. We want to preserve this craftsmanship for the future and give opportunities to find beauty. We are in the business of beauty and we have the skills to create beauty.”
The launch of a high-jewelry collection “could be interesting but is not in the plans,” he said, while another capsule collection is in the pipeline for October, following the likes of the Roma Amor, Mania and eyewear capsule with Gentle Monster. “They bring energy, and opportunities to be creative with artists. It’s an interesting moment of exchange and super rewarding,” he noted.