Kim Jones’s RTW debut for Fendi is all about realness to better capture the mood of the moment. That means abandoning excitement
It is the most anticipated show of the season, but we are not holding our breath. And true enough, nothing to hold for. Kim Jones, the maestro of hype, delivers “real clothes” for his ready-to-wear debut at Fendi, as the media reports. And how he is inspired by the Fendi sisters. Or, how, as he tells WWD, “I want all my friends to go, ‘I want that straight away,’” Real, of course, comes in many realities. What is real for Mr Jones’s friends, such as Kate Moss, or the Fendi sisters, may not be the same real for the rest of us, the non-friends. It seems the Dior Men designer has assembled wardrobe essentials for this very coterie that share an aesthetic with a provenance that can be traced to different points/moments in the ’70s, an era many designers reviving heritage fashion houses tend to revisit. The ’70s was also when Fendi’s women’s RTW began (1977, in fact), and it would seem that back to that decade is a good place to start Fendi anew, even when, to be fair, the looks aren’t immediately obvious. But does the Roman house need this comfortable position or do are they better served if they are moved a little further forward?
This return-to-the-past-to-find-the-present approach tends to yield a certain aegis against the shifting winds of trends or the risk of innovation. You know Mr Jones isn’t going for groundbreaking when the Fendi show opens with the first 12 looks in different shades of camel, a colour that often brings to mind furs of a particular era—and, oddly and possibility problematically, there are quite a lot of furs. This bathing in browns (except a break in off-whites and an occasional pink) seems to directly challenge what merchandisers and buyers have been saying for many years: such colours don’t sell. Not chestnut, mocha, not even chocolate. But, perhaps, Fendi sees colour differently. One tone, head to toe, might just be the chromatic wow that their customers need as shoppers surrender to the practical and Mr Jones succumbs to the pragmatic. Remember real.
Separates are key. Mr Jones’s approach to line development seems akin to what he does for menswear: dispense with the unpredictable, forgo the capricious. There are blazers, trench coats, dusters, pants, pencil skirts, cropped shirt-and-pants combo (a la silk satin pajamas), and even a boiler suit. Is this traipsing into Max Mara territory, even if more luxuriously realised? Many looks will thrill those pining for the return of executive wear, which perhaps go hand in hand with what we see as the golden age of commercial luxury fashion of the past 10 years, beginning with Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent (second tenure) in 2012. Mr Jones is aware of keeping the books healthy and sales buoyant at Fendi, just as he was just as alert at both Louis Vuitton and Dior Men. His merchandising stunts with Supreme and Air Jordan were masterful money-making strokes. For most of his time at LVMH, his sense of highly approachable fashion was largely supported by his close cadre of chums. The Fendi RTW seems to reflect his friends—maturing—wanting matured looks, but not too. The thing is, his pal Victoria Beckham turns out a more convincing and charming real!
Designing real clothes to spread their reach brings to mind a similar strategy that Riccardo Tischi gave Burberry in 2018. We can’t say with certainty that Burberry is headlining anything now, just coasting. Today, at Fendi it’s similarly a rock-not-the-boat “evolution than revolution”. To be sure, Karl Lagerfeld himself was a designer with sharp commercial instincts, but his output, at least for Fendi, was mostly free of the burdens of the past or house codes. Kim Jones’s designs seems to be on collision course with his predecessor’s near-morbid disdain for reprising the past, so much so that he called his debut RTW a “palette cleanser”. Is that like saying people are jelak (tired) of the old Fendi?