…are hot not! Or is this a pandemic-era aberration soon to go normal?
Fendi has a best-selling bag called Peekaboo. The name could also well apply to some of their fashion pieces in the latest collection for spring/summer 2022. Has there been so little happening in menswear of late that Fendi has to make something eventuate by going to extreme lengths, and in doing so, put very cropped jackets out, those so brief that they make a bolero looks positively long? For a moment we thought these were Balmain! Or are these strategically placed so that women will be the ones salivating after them, just as they once did, after Hedi Slimane’s painfully skinny suits at the former Dior Homme, once upon a time? But that may not be so. There are other cropped tops in the collection, all abbreviated as in womenswear: the hem sits just below where the bust line would be. They expose the navel (with chains and pendants for waists!), just as a belly dancer would.
Copped tops for men are, of course, not entirely new. We’ve seen them worn by body builders working out and dancers rehearsing. But Fendi’s versions aren’t ultra-short knit tops or regular tees, ripped to yield a certain sensual athleticism. The most prominent is the suit-jacket (top) truncated to chest level (with sleeves that end alongside the hem), under which a shirt that is similarly shortened (the tie seemed hacked too). It looks uncannily like one particular version humorously proposed in 1982 by the American artist and author Phillip Garner in Philip Garner’s Better Living Catalog. Fendi’s boasts impeccable tailoring, no doubt, but its precise brevity brings to mind men in China who roll their tops up in summer to beat the heat. Or, is this really what Silvia Venturini Fendi means when she referred to giving men “ a sense of freedom”, now (still) missing when so many are still working from home or staying put? The new going out top?
Men, more than ever, have the freedom to wear, whenever they want, what they want, even t-shirts and track pants to the office. Or even shorts, which are the star items at Fendi. From afar, some of them look like bloomers. If you look closer, the end of the shorts are lined with tiny pouch-cargo pockets, akin to those you might find on battle belts or those commonly seen on army webbing. Despite the seemingly military details and the extra 3-D pocket details of the short shorts, there is a certain prettiness to them, a quality that Gen-Z guys, bending gender norms, would welcome. Additionally, the blousiness of the tops too, the dress-likeness of a tunic, and the elasticised waists of fluid walking shorts add a relaxed, soft, and gentle spin to the Italian idea of what dressing to enhance one’s machismo has been, and is now ready to be redefined. Is Ms Fendi walking away from traditional binary constraints?
The 45-look collection was staged at the Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana, Fendi’s striking headquarters in Rome, and streamed online. The house didn’t participate in an IRL runway show, as many of their eager-to-go-back-to-normal compatriot brands have. The view of the city from the upper floors of the Palazzo is an interplay of light and shapes, and is reflected in the collection. This looking down is also augmented by manly prints of archival maps of Rome, and patterns that mimic the earth seen from outer space. From the International Space Station, we wonder, could a different kind of swagger be seen, abstract or not?