Is it perverse to block out the grandeur of the Palais Brongniart’s central nave — with its lovely stone archways, gilded cupola and soaring glass roof — and install a clinical white oval of a room, bringing to mind the laboratory of some futuristic space station?
Perhaps. But Fendi’s workmanship is so delicate and painstaking that having bright light, the models nearly brushing the knees of those in the front row, and no busy decor competing for attention heightened appreciation for laser-cut leather, dense micro-beading, gossamer crochet, micro pleating, and intricate lace.
“Lingerie as an underpinning, and thinking about lightness,” Kim Jones, Fendi’s artistic director of haute couture, ready-to-wear and fur collections for women, summed up during a preview at the venue, showing off slender cashmere coats lined in dense embroideries and tulle columns embroidered with hand-painted flowers.
A little over two years into his tenure at the Roman house, Jones described his angle on Fendi couture as “delicate,” a foil to the many “heavy clothes” around.
“You want [the clients] to feel really good and for them to feel comfortable, I think it’s really important,” he said. “The way we live now is very different from how we used to live. I’m just thinking about modern times, modern stresses and modern problem-solving.”
His proposal? Long, body-skimming dresses with the lightness of lingerie and occasionally the suggestion of dishabille. “A sense of underwear becoming eveningwear,” he said.
With little variation in silhouette, and predominantly pale colors, this fashion show didn’t set off many sparks. The craft of couture was the star, perhaps exemplified by the metallic leather made to resemble lace or chain mail while maintaining malleability and softness.
Animal welfare has been a hot-button topic this couture week, with Schiaparelli catching flack online for the hand-sculpted, completely faux animal heads it incorporated into clothes. At Fendi, Jones has already shifted the focus of its couture business, initiated in 2016 by the late Karl Lagerfeld, from fur to fabric dresses, mostly long and lean ones.
Only two of the 39 exits Thursday incorporated small bits of fur as embellishment. Evoking more wonder were the intricate lace intarsias and the fuzzy, cobweb-delicate crochet gown made of the finest Japanese mohair.
Jones said he returns often to the Fendi archives — lately more so as the house participates in the Costume Institute’s spring 2023 exhibition about Lagerfeld at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Lightness being among the chief hallmarks of Lagerfeld’s fashions, Jones did a fine job exalting this legacy.