Add another distinction to Karl Lagerfeld’s superhuman résumé: fashion’s only two-timing couturier. With the Fendi collection he and Silvia Venturini Fendi showed on Wednesday, the house has officially shifted from haute fourrure to haute couture — and it’s more than a name change.
“This tradition of fur allows us to do couture: clothes made with fur, but also with other materials,” said the brand’s chief executive officer Serge Brunschwig, before the show. “We thought it was more coherent to call it couture, because that is the service we are going to offer. A lot of our clients are attending the show and a dinner afterward. Then we will be holding appointments for three days at the Hôtel de La Salle.”
Speaking of those clients, 180 or so in attendance, would a little thing like a heat wave keep some from breaking out their latest fur purchase? What do you think? Next season, they won’t have to think twice — literally. Because while Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi worked a pair of interesting if not atypical creative themes — paintings and a plate (the work of Czech painter František Kupka, on exhibit at the Grand Palais, and a plate featuring a lattice and floral motif that tickled Lagerfeld’s fancy) — really, this collection was an homage to the possible. Specifically, what’s possible when your history of creativity and R&D are inextricably linked. And it was framed within the toniest of guessing games, a tromp l’oeil adventure, Brunschwig said, “to guess what is fur and what isn’t.”
It’s quite a game. Achieving the impossible is as much a part of the Fendi DNA as sisterly devotion. Materials on this runway were nothing short of astounding, with printed, frayed chiffon; heat-shrunken sequins and plissé organza all impersonating various furs, the last in the skirt of an orange dress, the bodice of which looked exactly the same, only it was real mink. In each case, Fendi nailed the likeness, the fashion equivalent of Baldwin doing Trump.
But materials don’t matter a whit if the clothes aren’t chic. These were, and terrifically so, whether as simple as a classic suit (or as classic as a suit can be when made from the aforementioned sequins that somehow look like fur) or a skirt made from 1,000 (not a typo) mink tiles. Of course, there were impeccable coats and jackets, as befit a house with its roots in fur. But for a couture maison/palazzo, that’s not enough. Event dressing is essential to couture, in particular, the hallowed red carpet. To lure the celebrity set, Lagerfeld and Venturini Fendi showed a host of delicate, sheer beauties, worn over modest sequined onesies in deference to the cultural moment.
Still, the bigger story here is of the world’s most storied fur house broadening its repertoire, and along the way, faking us out with glorious faux. “We are not distancing ourselves from fur,” Brunschwig maintained. “We are offering clients a choice. There are those who absolutely don’t mind it, and there are others who want to buy something other than fur.”
Either way, Fendi has something exquisite to offer.