Extreme dieter Karl Lagerfeld didn’t hold back when it came to his disdain for larger sizes, once telling an interviewer “nobody wants to see curvy women.” But Silvia Venturini Fendi is in charge now, and on Thursday night she put inclusivity front and center on the Fendi runway with more sizes (Paloma Elsesser) and ages (Carolyn Murphy and Karen Elson), marking a new era for the house.
What would Karl say?
“Times change and he was always ready to change his mind…,” Venturini Fendi said backstage, explaining that for her second collection working as a solo act following Lagerfeld’s death last February she wanted to think about “the woman I want to dress — strong, independent and free, but within the traditional codes of femininity.”
That meant drawing inspiration from boudoir and silver screen femme fatales, including those Lagerfeld himself costumed for the Seventies film, “Maitresse.”
”It was a movie that made a big scandal at that time because it’s the story of a woman who lives in Paris in a two-floor flat and on one level, she has a very bourgeois and normal life, and in the basement she is a dominatrix,” Venturini Fendi said.
Both stories were on display in this collection, which was a bit heavy-handed, but still a kick. (Gigi and Bella Hadid playing side-eye shading seductresses? How can you resist?)
On the runway, the focus was on curvy women, if not literally, on making them so by using puffed and padded sleeves, nipped and corseted waists on brushed gray flannel coats and blazers, pink satin and velvet dresses that were the film noir, covered-up side of seductive. For evening, more revealing lingerie looks came out to play, with satin, bustier and fringe details, worn with pumps with garter ankle straps, and coquettish back-of-the-headbands that looked like a trend in the making.
Some of the shapes were a bit too voluptuous (a leather accordion skirt with a chunky sweater tucked into the waistband doesn’t really flatter anyone), and others a bit busy (cheetah paisley might be better for a powder room pouf than an intarsia fur coat and skirt ensemble). But Venturini Fendi made up for it with several lovely, pared-down, body-conscious, Forties-esque draped shoulder day dresses, the best in a shirting stripe trimmed in black lace.
Aware she was playing with some pre-#MeToo cliches of femininity, the designer said in her defense, “To be dressed in pink [doesn’t mean] that you are stupid.” (It should be said she was dressed backstage in a gray flannel Fendi men’s shirt and pants.)
And in addition to the inclusive casting, there was at least one other nod to the femme future. A cool tech collaboration with London-based accessories brand Chaos featured delicate Fendi-branded gold mesh phone pouches and perforated “FF” minaudière storage devices resembling vintage cigarette lighters. Just the thing for today’s gadget addicts.