Named Fendi’s artistic director of haute couture, ready-to-wear and fur collections for women last September, Kim Jones, brand new to women’s fashion, said he didn’t need any breathing room and plunged right into the job, which brought the Roman house to its very first couture show for the spring season.
“I’m a doer,” Jones said from behind his black face mask at a preview. “I don’t think waiting helps people sometimes.”
He certainly didn’t fret for a theme, immediately settling on Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” and her sister Vanessa Bell, a painter, interior designer and member of the Bloomsbury Set. Jones said he’s admired these two women his “entire adult life,” flicking through the camera roll on his phone to show a wall-sized book shelf at his home, one row dedicated to first editions of Woolf and other books by Bloomsbury authors.
“Fendi was founded in 1925. ‘Orlando’ was published in 1928. So they come from the same point in history, literally. And I thought it was quite interesting how they’re both still very modern and relevant,” Jones mused.
Some designers enter a heritage house and scorch the earth. Not Jones, who embraced the entire Fendi family, first and foremost Silvia Venturini Fendi, artistic director of accessories and men’s wear collections, and her daughter Delfina Delettrez Fendi, jewelry creative director, who walked the show in a peachy gown. Both women were involved in designing the couture collection and were in Paris this week for final fittings and accessorization at the Palais Brongniart, the venue for the filmed show. Jones also cribbed one man/woman look directly from a sketch by Karl Lagerfeld, who designed Fendi’s furs and women’s rtw for 54 years. The fashion legend left an indelible mark on the house — and giant shoes to fill.
Jones certainly seems up to the task. He’s confident, deeply cultured, a whiz with extreme luxury, a walking encyclopedia of fashion and a clever communicator who knows how to leverage social media via cool artistic collaborations and the involvement of his famous friends. Cue the cast for this couture debut: Kate Moss and her daughter Lila, modeling together for the first time. Ditto Christy Turlington and her nephew James, plus Demi Moore, Bella Hadid, Cara Delevingne, Adwoa Aboah and Naomi Campbell.
Only 19 looks were presented, paraded through a stunning glass maze erected in the form of Fendi’s famous double-F logo — another Lagerfeld invention — to a bespoke soundtrack by Max Richter.
It was hard to get a complete sense of Jones’ angle on women’s wear with such a small sample, especially if you X out the looks on men. (Jones made clear the men’s outfits were only due to the gender-hopping that takes place in “Orlando” and that he’ll only do men’s at Dior.) To be sure, he has range — showing both tailleur and flou — and excels at intense surface decoration, right down to hand-embroidered boots recalling the frescoes by Bell at Charleston farmhouse, the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury Set that Jones often visited as a teenager, painting in the garden.
He is also not afraid of showing off a woman’s body, opening the show with Moore striding out in a silky black pantsuit with a plunging off-the-shoulder neckline. Hadid followed soon after in a sheer, body-hugging gown and matching cape, all in watery blues, recalling how Woolf drowned herself. The dresses had a period feel with their Empire waistlines and long trains, but they were also subtly sexy, unabashedly romantic and exquisitely realized.
Campbell closed the show in a marble-print ensemble, the motif recalling the hand-painted books Woolf and her husband Leonard published, and the colorful stones at Rome’s Galleria Borghese. Her trailing cape was a patchwork of fur, and with her hair dotted with wavy Murano glass combs, she brought to mind a royal statue.
Jones arrives at Fendi after having left his mark on Dunhill, Louis Vuitton men’s wear, and Dior men’s wear, which he continues to pilot. He seems to have a system down pat.
“When I get to a house, I look at what the house’s pillars are, and I look at what the customers want,” he said. What’s more, he looks for expansion avenues. He knows Fendi does well with couture, which was introduced by Lagerfeld in 2015 and has mainly been focused on fur so far. “I wanted to expand the range of what they can have, like a beautiful dress, things like that. I like to look at what the company has and what it doesn’t have and how we can extend that.”
It was an auspicious start, and Jones pointed Fendi in an intriguing direction.