Fendi now has famous arches, too. The principal architectural feature of its new headquarters, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, ringed Fendi’s runway theater and occasionally popped up in the collection: as cage work on a boxy suede bomber jacket, or as a cutout fronting a monastic gown.
Backstage, Silvia Venturini Fendi said the view of the Roman sky from the imposing building, also known as the Square Coliseum, inspired the palette, an array of pale blues and moody grays. “Rainy days,” she said, gleefully explaining the spotted film draped over cashmere sweaters, sheared fur jackets and a Baguette bag in precious leather.
The show — if a bit all over the place — was young and fresh, showing Karl Lagerfeld’s prowess with filmy fabrics as much as fur. He opened with pert A-line shifts sifts, segued through layered denim and gladiator skirts and then climaxed with dreamy, feathered minidresses that were in fact made from hand-frayed organdy.
Lagerfeld scored a hit when he pinned white orchid sprigs on fur coats for fall, and so he reprised the flower here as a new icon for the brand, which has been gaining momentum in recent seasons. He chose a striking bearded bloom he discovered in a book about the 19th century. “It’s not about the Seventies,” he said, a veiled swipe at retro retreads on other runways.
The almost architectural flower served as a bold print motif for neat shift dresses and petit-point handbags. A 3-D version was worked into taut black leather jackets, the petals trembling as the models walked a runway painted like a two-lane highway.
The leather workmanship was sometimes dazzling — degrade coats that morphed from suede into patent leather — and sometimes puzzling, as in T-shirts and blousons with front panels and sleeves sliced finer that fettuccini.
The accessories were striking, and playful. With arch humor, Lagerfeld and Fendi miniaturized iconic bags like the Peekaboo and clipped them on full-sized bags as the latest incarnation of their popular charms.
Included in the press kit Lagerfeld left on every seat were charcoal sketches of the collection, plus photos he took of Fendi’s new palazzo, considered one of the finest representations of fascist architecture in Italy and an example of how “fashion and architecture were one of the favored forms of expressing avant-garde culture in the early decades of the 20th Century,” the designer wrote in the program notes.
Word has it Lagerfeld will next turn his camera one of Paris’s most important new buildings and do a book on the Frank Gehry-designed Foundation Louis Vuitton.