Facing Fendace

Up close with the curious collab: It is as terrifying as imagined, even when not much is available

Fendi and Versace equal Fendace, a name that rings of Pantpong of the past. We still do not know what to make of this collaboration (we were, in fact, reminded not to call this as such. It is a “swap”). Is it a joke that we do not understand and, therefore, can’t laugh along? To be sure, Fendace speaks to a very specific target: those who are nostalgic for Versace loudness pied-pipered by the house’s Medusa head, those who have never enjoyed the ostentation, and those who would wear anything that scream something. For those who have lived through the garish-florid excess of the ’90s (before the demise of Gianni Versace), this is very much a revisit. It certainly was for us.

We went to the Fendi store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre this afternoon to view the brand’s take on the Versace aesthetic (we skipped the Fendi looks at Versace as they are, to us, too Donatella Versace). Except for two mannequins flanking the entrance, there were no others in windows featuring the Fendace merchandise, nor any lightbox announcing its launch today. The two mannequins—female on one side and male on the other—were not togged to the nines, as we had expected, just simple pieces you’d have missed if you, walking pass, did not pay attention to the dummies’ attire. There were stanchions and rope outside, but a queue had not formed. We walked straight inside.

A beaming sales staff came to ask if we needed any assistance. The only Fendace merchandise we could identify were the bags, so we asked her if the full collection was in store. “Is there anything you want?” She sounded eager to help. Not specifically, we want to see the pieces first before we decide. “Actually,” she continued with a hint of regret, “most of the items are sold out.” We were taken aback. She then showed us a rack the width of a large armoire: Only three items were hung there. “Is there anything you want? Do you have a picture?” We were really surprised they were this low on the Fendace stocks, this soon. “We brought in very few pieces each—one or two.” Why is that so? Is it because our market is too small? “Yes,” she agreed with a smile. “We think the prints may not do so well here. Our buyers feel they will do better in China.”

Not long after the Fendace show in Milan last September, the hashtag #Fendace was followed by 80 million Chinese on Weibo, according to Chinese media reports. In a Jing Daily (精奢商业观察) editorial, it was noted that netizens were divided when it came to how appealing the high-high coupling was: “Some believed it was simply a marketing stunt and even found them “ugly,” yet others saw them as great value.” China is a huge market, even if there are more of those who find Fendace unattractive, those who think not would still be a larger number than any sum here. The sales staff added, as if sensing our skepticism, “it is also popular with the Chinese (residing) here.”

If the proclaimed sell-out is based on the “very few pieces” availed to the store, it would be an exaggeration to say that the collection was met with great success here. But with so little to see merely four hours after the store opened, it was perhaps good optics for Fendi and Versace. “Sold out” is the best marketing strategy and catch phrase. We were also told that there was a private session for VIP customers to pick their Fendace; we were, naturally, not privy to that. Without much on offer, the salesgirl tried to interest us in the few bags left on the shelf, including a SGD4,850 Baguette in the printed silk designed for the collection (and for the bag’s braided handle), although we were intrigued by the much smaller Mini Sunshine Shopper. When we did not seem keen in either, she told us there were some scrunchies we could look at. Presumably we appeared to have only SGD375 to spend.

Tried as we did, it was hard to distinguish between Fendi and Versace in the products. Perhaps, that’s the whole idea: to look indistinguishable. However new and fresh the pairing of luxury labels, the melding of two high-end brands has its precedence: the Chinese knock-off market. In the heydays of affordable bootlegs, to appear without outright copying, some producers of pirated goods bring together unlikely names and aesthetics to blur the lines, so to speak. Fendace, to us, had that spirit, but now the smudging of aesthetical borders is legit and blessed with the finesse of Italian craftsmanship. But does it make Fendace really covetable now matter how gaudy it looks? Or is Fendace really too hot to be anything but?

Fendace is launched today. Most items are sold out. Good luck. Photos: Chin Boh Kay. Illustrations: Just So

Do It Smartly

For the next autumn/winter, Fendi is hoping to get guys to really dress up

Silvia Venturini Fendi told the media she thinks that although there are so few occasions for occasion dressing these days, the habit of dressing well and smartly should “return in full force”, as WWD quotes her. That Ms Fendi is keen to promote and encourage men to dress up is understandable. As a luxury house, Fendi can’t be hoping to sell T-shirts and kindred garb—or more of them—to commensurate with the persistence of the pandemic that necessitates casual clothes (who goes for COVID testing or vaccinations and booster shots in a suit?). Or, to let guys be truly comfortable with donning T-shirts everywhere and every day to the point where the creature of habit in them takes over?

Ms Fendi’s solution is to bring back the “classics”, re-proportion them, and give them an overall softness. It is not immoderate to see them as feminine although that may increasingly be inappropriate an adjective to use to describe menswear. There are tunic shapes (to mimic a dress?), tented shorts (for winter?), and as it is de rigueur these days, a skirt (or what looks like one)—all happy friends with more convention shirts, sweaters, and parkas. Men, fashion presentation these days tell us, desire bottoms that are not pants. Still, we are not sure if the skirt is more option than must-have. Perhaps Ms Fendi is onto something when she refers to occasion dressing. There could be a time and place for men to don a good skirt, just not to meet the bank manager?

To defy convention (if it still matters), Ms Fendi tweaks the necklines too, but they are less minor adjustments than actually incorporating those usually devised to resemble a décolleté. Could the seen collar bone be the new mark of masculinity? Or is its exposure a sure sign that design details no longer distinguish roles according to gender? There is the inverted-triangular key holes on sweaters (one even appearing under a spread collar), and the split boat-neck of an evening jacket, on which a single-bloom corsage (they are too large to be called boutonnière, no?) is worn, just like Carrie Bradshaw is (still) inclined to. Pandemic-era dressing requires the projection of nuptial joy.

To further strengthen the gender-neutrality, the accessories appear to have—like certain contagions—made the jump. Sure, the Baguette has crossed over to the men’s camp for quite a few seasons now, and they still remain strong and handbag-like on masculine hips, but less expected are pearl necklaces, now worn over neck warmers, like an obijime (decorative cord) atop the obi. It is, of course, true that pearls under male chins, even unshaved, have not been unusual for awhile too, but as strap-ons for covered necks, they may preface jewellery for turtlenecks, mock or not. With surgical masks still necessary, and adopted by the fashionable set, is neckwear with their own accessories the next big thing?

Screen grab and photos: Fendi

When Two Kims Got Together

Tight just got tighter

By Mao Shan Wang

In July, when Kim Kardashian posted on Instagram a photo of her with Donatella Versace and Kim Jones (a post liked by over 2.6 million followers to date), those who follow the three of them individually or as a group were quite sure they were up to something. A collab perhaps, I had thought, and you too, I’m sure. When the pairing of Ms Versace and Mr Jones were revealed, many thought Ms Kardashian was left out. But now we know. A collaboration was indeed in the works between the two Kims. That is, in fact, not surprising, but the result is. Well, somewhat. While Fendace was all gaudy-go-not-lightly, the un-named Fendi X Skims (fortunately not Fendims!!!), is rather tasteful (did I just write that?), if a little too tight. But, before you hit back, yes, it is shapewear and what is shapewear if they do not constrict enough to shape? Maybe I am not sure if all the contouring and lifting is that comfortable. If only Skims were available to the staffer assisting Sylvia Chan for the Preetipls shoot. Her angry boss may not then bitchily compare the rapper to a “rhinocerous”, in a three-word sentence that, incredibly, also included the name of an Aramaic-speaking religious leader of the Herodian Kingdom of the Roman empire!

I have to say I have never worn Skims (can you imagine it was initially called Kimono? 😲). The only shapewear I have tried (and I say tried because it was on me for, like, 15 minutes!) was Spanx—I received it as a Christmas gift years ago. It is possible that this name is now largely forgotten, but back then, it was the go-to brand for looking trim or keeping parts of the body from spilling everywhere. It is still big in the US (which is the largest shapewear market, I was told). Now, to make that kind of stretchy inner wear that gives you shape where there may be none, synthetic fabrics are used almost entirely, mainly nylon and spandex, which means they don’t necessarily allow the body/skin to breathe. And in this weather of ours, five minutes outside air-conditioning and you’d start to itch. And in all the wrong places. Fabric technologies have, of course, changed and improved. Skims probably benefits from this. Which may explain the far wider product offering of the Fendi X Skims collab.

Kim Kardashian has already made Skim quite the name in shapewear. It is reportedly now worth more than USD1 billion. She clever describes her offering, “solutions for every body” (Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty caters to just as many bodies, but she calls her shapewear ‘cinchers’). With Fendi, she appears to take it a step further. The collab offers, on top of shapewear, lingerie, swimwear, gym wear, onesies, dresses, and even outerwear (there’s even a hoodie outer). And in colours other than black and ‘skin’. A green which is akin to military fatigues is part of the colour story. Oh, there are bags and shoes too. Is Ms Kardashian readying her brand as a full fashion line? Or are the two Kims acknowledging that more and more women are taking the inners out, showing considerable amount of skin as a result. To be sure, the collection, a limited edition, is not as sexy as I thought it would be. I mean there is a lot of fabric used. At least from the images I have seen so far. Well, if you are going to be logo-centric or monogram-mad, which Fendi is increasingly becoming, you’d need a considerable amount of fabric to have, in this case, the logotype to go on and on and on. Even on the sheers (see-throughs, to some), it is logo galore.

Talking about images, the publicity shots are lensed by Steven Meisel and styled by a name I have not heard for quite a while: Carlyn Cerf de Dudzeele. In 1988, Ms de Dudzeele styled Anna Wintour’s first Vogue cover. Ms Kardashian is, unsurprisingly, placed front and centre in all the images, even the one (above) featuring other women, which I assume is the main image. The casting is, well, inclusive, although the Asian girl Jessie Li is styled to look quite angmo. Amazingly all the models’ hair are in motion or afloat, even when they are seated. To reflect the energy of the collaboration? Not many people are convinced of the need or usefulness of this tie-up. A fashion designer I know texted me to say: “sadly, Karl (Lagerfeld) taught them nothing and left them nothing to use”. Fendi may have gone into haute couture, but I don’t think they wish to avoid the market that is closer to grassroots. There’s a fortune to be made in bodysuits and the like. Kim Kardashian have already proven it. In Korea, the family name Kim (as in Daniel Kim) is the equivalent of the Chinese Jin (金), which also means gold. Is Fendi and Skims heading for that win—double gold, to boot? I really think so.

Fendi X Skims will be available on 9 November (from 9pm, our time) at fendiskims.com. Photos: Kim Kardashian/Instagram. Collage (top): Just so

Fendace Is Verdi Real

It’s dubbed The Swap, but in a world with too many labels and too much clothes, are the Fendi and Versace I-do-you, you-do-me collections necessary? Are they at all nice?

It looks like Milan Fashion Week has its climax show to end the festivities. The “unexpected” Fendi and Versace or Fendace collaboration, or “hack”, to steal from present-day, pandemic-poised parlance, really took place after the initial rumour grew more heads than on Medusa’s. And rather than a reprisal of the Gucci/Balenciaga manoeuvre in April (or vice versa), Kim Jones (and design partner Silvia Venturini Fendi) traded places/brands with Donatella Versace to “interpret” the other house’s aesthetics and codes. The result is high on the marketing potential of the idea than the ideation itself, more brash than dash, more Versace than Fendi. It isn’t clear yet, which brand will stand to gain. Versace, fresh from a showing just three days earlier had already jog one’s memory about those ideas that make the house instantly recognisable, do they need another splashy retelling? Or, is this Fendi trying to go hipper, playing down Mr Jones’s banal muliebrity in his reimagination of the brand?

It is like his Shein moment, her Boohoo, all TikTok-ready, influencer-approved. Sure, we understand that we are living in such times, but must we see Fendi go from soignée a week earlier to meretricious now, Versace go from Versace to Versace Max? It is understandable that brands love mash-ups and, possibly, their customers too, but is it really time to blur aesthetic lines when no side gains? One SOTD reader was clearly dismayed when he texted us this morning about Versace’s interpretation of Fendi, “In the end, it just looked like two Versace shows; one better than the other! Apart from the monogram, there was sadly, no Fendi to speak of.” Make that three if you count the spring/summer 2022 show of the main line. “It’s the first in the history of fashion,” Ms Versace said through a media release. On both front, yes.

No one is mistaken that this is Sacai’s Chitose Abe doing Jean Paul Gaultier and certainly not, if a pop reference is preferred, Lady Gaga doing Cole Porter! It is all about the hype. Do we still remember that? Or has hype been so over-hyped that we are more immune to it than one relentless virus? Is hoopla so blah that we need to revive it. And throw in some old-time catwalk excesses (a revolving Medusa logo reveals the double F?) and other-era models to up the surprise factor (since there are none in the clothes)? Sure it is a delight to see Kristen McMenamy playing Donatella Versace, Mariacarla Boscono still looking good, and Kate Moss looking not, but when it comes to Naomi Campbell closing the show, it really is a bit jelak. Did she not just appear in the earlier Versace show, in the same swagger?

There is the laughable name too. Sure, the project can be cheekily referred to as Fendace (the lazy conflation of Fendi and Versace), but when it is actually spelled out as a real brand, it sounds like something you would find in Mahboonkrong Centre in Bangkok, among the Armanee jeans, Frid Perry polos, Adibas kicks, and Relax watches. Clearly ‘Verdi’ is not allowable—a national icon deserves far greater respect. Perhaps this is a dig at the Chinese counterfeiters who can’t spell. Still, could they not think of something less Qipu Lu, Shanghai? We have no idea if this would appear as a label on the back of the clothes, but since Fendace is already there as a belt buckle and on the bags (including those Book wannabes), so expect nothing less. According to reports, the project was brewing since February although the news broke that it would be a sudden coming together of the brands only this week. Designers taking over as new creative directors of other brands have precocious less to work with. A waste of resources, just to feed the empty hype?

The show opens with Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi doing Versace. One senses this is really the job Mr Jones was after, rather than the Fendi appointment. Loud is waiting to jump out of him, and he creates the chance to allow it to radiate, but could he do loud better than Versace has been? It is not hard to see that Mr Jones is not particularly adept at handling or mixing prints. Or squeeze out more. The florid Versace silk dresses and separates look like they could come from a lame season of the now-defunct Versus. Donatella embracing Fendi, a house so unlike the one her brother founded, conversely, appeared the more triumphant among the trio, leaving every identifiable Versace hallmark where they can be left, like a canine marking her territory. Even the Fendi monogram is treated to Versace-esque colours. No garment is free of Medusa heads, animal prints, Oriental frets, Baroque swirls… whatever could be squeezed onto a silk screen. If not, there is always the chain mail.

Is it because the show took place on Versace’s turf? Would it be different if it is staged at Fendi’s headquarters? Will it be there next? Would there be a next? Where would the clothes and accessories be sold? Both lines at each other’s stores? Just as the show was live-streamed on both brands’ website, on visually similar pages? High-high pairings (in this case, one French-owned—LVMH and the other by American upstart Capri Holdings) may be trending now, but how Fendace will pan out is perhaps too early to tell. The idea may not have been explored before, but the execution is nowhere near radical. And, it is hard to see the sustainability (in every sense of the word) of The Swap. It is a showy novelty set up to wane.

Photos: Fendi/Versace/Fendace

Two Of A Kind: The “Half-Suit”

It first appeared in 1982. Now Fendi is reviving it. Is half better that one whole?

Fendi Vs Philip Garner

Intrigued by Fendi’s lobbed-off suit-jacket shown in the recent spring/summer 2022 collection, we Googled to see if there was a precedence to this unsettling outfit. And true enough, there was. In 1982, this tailored piece (right) was proposed as an alternative to wear when it is scorching, as seen in the book of humour Philip Garner’s Better Living Catalog. Called the “Half-Suit”, it was shown worn in the same way as Fendi’s—with a cropped-off shirt and tie. The original version was preppie to just above the solar plexus, offering “abbreviated midsection for comfort and physical flair” (Fendi omitted the latter!). The author described the Half-Suit as “a new concept in warm weather business attire.” It does not seem to us that Fendi intended theirs for the corporate office or meetings with a bank’s relationship manager. In the book, it was further recommended that the Half-Suit “may be worn with shortened pants…” An idea that Fendi, too, adopted.

Philip Garner, 79, is an American artist and author (another book of his went by the title Utopia or Bust: Products for the Perfect World), known for his satirical take on consumer products that he cheekily—but not inaccurately—called “inventions”. They included such unlikely items as the Palmbrella, and one unimaginable “high-heeled roller skate”. He even appeared on late-night talk shows, such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, to tout his wares. Today, we’ll gladly labelled all that ‘fake’. In the 1980s, Philip Garner began developing a separate identity and started transitioning to Pippa Garner. Her new gender is more than a reassignment; it was also an “art project,” as she said, “to create disorientation in my position in society, and sort of balk any possibility of ever falling into a stereotype again.”

Silvia Venturini Fendi made no reference to the Half-Suit. Well, not yet. It’ll be interesting to see if Fendi’s version will take off when the Garner original elicited mostly laughs. Unlike the RTW of Fendi’s, the Half-Suit of 1982 was sort of customised. As stated in the out-of-print book, interested parties were asked to “send us your suit(s) for professional quality Half-Suit modification in our modern facility.” And happily it offered more: “For a slight additional charge, zippers can be installed, allowing rapid full-length reconversion at the onset of chilly weather.” Fendi’s very likely do not come with that welcome option.

Photos: (right) Fendi and (right) Delilah Books

Fendi’s Cropped Tops

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?

Photos: Fendi

Boring As Real

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?

Photos: Fendi

Underwhelming

Perhaps, for once, Kim Jones does not live up to the pre-show hype?

Did we really think Kim Jones was going to astonish us with his debut couture collection for Fendi? Frankly, no. But we were hopeful. People can surprise. Mr Jones, for sure. He is known as a man of immense talent, a voracious reader, with a curious mind, and a deep knowledge of fashion—the craft and the history. It is with this erudition, know-how, and awareness that, we suspect, scored him the enviable position at Fendi. He doesn’t need the job, we feel, but it allowed him one key thing in his career that he never was able to proof: a flair for designing womenswear. Would this be second nature as it has been for him incorporating the sportif at both Louis Vuitton and Dior? No one would have guessed the truth to that when the news broke that he’d be joining Fendi; nor confirm it now. Despite an increasingly large menswear market, it is in the women’s lines that the glamour is found and absorbed, and from which a designer would win acclaim and, in many cases, be remembered. Mr Jones, it appears, need this. As Vanessa Friedman from The New York Times astutely noted, just days before the Fendi couture show, “Kim Jones Wants to Rule the Fashion World.”

Staged in what looks like a co-working-space-turn-fashion-showroom, which also looks like a glass menagerie (actually showcases that, when you look from the top down, are in the shape of Fendi’s interlocking F logo, designed by Mr Jones’s predecessor Karl Lagerfeld), the show featured models unanimously described as “A-listers”. These include (an unrecognisable) Demi Moore, who opens the show, and (an also unrecognisable) Kate Moss and her daughter, as well as Bella Hadid, Cara Delevingne, Adwoa Aboah, Christy Turlington, and, unsurprisingly, Naomi Campbell, who closes the presentation (surprisingly, no Victoria Beckham!). As both Ms Moss and Ms Campbell had walked Mr Jones’s final Louis Vuitton show in 2017, it seems apt that both models would do the same for his first with Fendi. If nothing else, to root for him. It is so thick with congenial friends-for-friends vibe that the media reports that emerge very quickly after the presentation in Paris are headlined with who appeared on the runway, not what.

The what, in fact, is the real point of interest for many who watched the live stream, rather than, say, the strangely unfamiliar eyes of post-Topshop Kate Moss. But Mr Jones’s friends may be the reasons why his debut couture collection looks the way it does: it is conceived for women who lead very specific lives. It almost seems like the clothes are made just for them. All the talk about referencing Virginia Woolf’s Orlando—and the kindred Bloomsbury set, a collective of intellectuals in the early 1900s that included Ms Woolf, and their lives and creative works (that had earlier influenced other designers such as Christopher Bailey and John Galliano)—is just talk to lend cultural heft to the clothes. As the show goes on, it is not certain Mr Jones has an immediately clear aesthetical direction for Fendi couture. Despite the feminine flourishes, sometimes just half of the outfits, it is hard not to say the collection isn’t at least in part informed by his long experience in menswear, and in the last three years, introducing couture elements to Dior for men. The addition of a trio of guys do not convincingly share the thinking of Pierpaolo Piccioli, who also showed men’s recently for Valentino, “couture is for people. I don’t care about gender.”

So what do Mr Jones’s friends need or wish to wear, whether in lockdown or not (many of them are obviously still able to travel)? A sheer cape to blur the lines of a halter-neck gown? A bosom-defining dress with a rosette to punctuate the cleavage? A half-suit-half-dress, with half a fichu? Shoulder-augmenting capes that are more royal than superhero? And, if you’re young enough, panty revealing skirts? In all the polished feminine allure, conscious good taste do not block out boring. Or, have we been let down by expectations not met? Are we simply perceiving Kim Jones’s couture incorrectly? Oh, would we also be wrong if we see, especially in one white gown with encrusted neckline and long fluted sleeves and those bosom-dusting earrings, Andrew Gn?

Screen grab (top) and photos: Fendi

And The Luxe Goes On

Despite what’s going on around us right now, Silvia Fendi does not believe in an abstemious life. Her latest collection for autumn/winter 2021 continues to pile on the luxe and is not short of ideas, proving that her strength is in menswear

“Hello,” goes the matronly voice above the not-yet-loud electronic beat, “it’s Silvia calling. I just wanted to tell you about humanity, colour… about what is normal today, about light… and darkness…” That’s how the Fendi show started. These days, the creative heads behind luxury houses want to speak to you directly. Silvia Venturini Fendi does so through the soundtrack by Not Waving, the London-based Italian “musical artist” Alessio Natalizia, for the live-streamed men’s show. She does not sing. Instead, she speaks as if through a phone, or Zoom without the video turned on. It is reminiscent of Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1989 dance single How To Do That, in that he too didn’t sing, but Mr Gaultier sounded like he was having fun, rather than encourage a discourse on what matters now. Ms Fendi’s wanting to tell you about “what is normal today” could be prelude to what her Fendi men’s might look like.

But only, it isn’t really. This is not some elevated athleisure or loungewear 2.0 frippery; this is whatever you wish to call it, with extra doses of the deluxe. Not quite the fashion of WTF, unless you live in a country estate in, say, Buckinghamshire, England, the look that reflects a still-precarious time. We can’t place exactly where these clothes might be worn to or where they might feel right, but we are drawn to them, if only because they look like we might be able to snuggle in them or turn one of the quilted coats into pillow or blanket. These are not exactly clothes for a lockdown (or for retiring, socially); they look like they would want to be worn somewhere. And clothes have such appeal if they are destined to be seen outside, in the world, no matter how awful or lamentable it is. What’s normal for Ms Fendi, as it turns out, is not quite so.

Such as shorts in winter. Although quilted, they might be insufficient for, say, Sapporo. Or too much for Hong Kong, where winters rarely warrant quilted garments. So they will be a fashion item, distanced from the practical obsessions of a now-different world. The head-to-toe knits too (we like the overalls with the turtleneck sweater), which could be for a log cabin apres ski (who really wears sweater-knit slacks outdoors?). Or, for that matter, the quilted dressing gowns? The dandy vibe is not lost, although it’d be eye-opening if there are, at this time, or nine months later, men who’d want to express their predilection for clued-in elegance by adopting such symbols of deep refinement and eccentric aristocracy. But it is the unlikely, by way of the practicable or visual, that we find this collection compelling.

The first look sums it all up. Two quilted coats together is unusual enough, but it is the cable-knit sweater worn underneath that draws our interest: it has a collar (if you can call it that), seemingly made from two joined sleeves. The styling allows these two ends to just hang down the chest, but we suspect that, for the more fashion forward, they could be tied into a pussy bow! Ms Fendi, as head of menswear, kidswear, and accessories, has, in these past years, made Fendi men a considerable force. Her women’s line, after Karl Lagerfeld’s death, banked too much on Roma retro, and did not quite excite, which may explain Kim Jones’s taking over in the upcoming season. Whether extreme or conspicuous luxe for menswear shall stake its place in a pandemic-ravaged world remains to be seen, but Silvia Fendi has positioned the now-LVMH-owned brand well, and with wit to boot.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Fendi

Is This Why Fendi Needs Kim Jones?

Or is this just an in-transition, passing-the-baton collection?

Fendi without Karl Lagerfeld has not been the same. For 54 years, Mr Lagerfeld gave Fendi the fashion DNA it did not quite have, imagining a Roman style through his German eyes, but with a firmly French touch. Mr Lagerfeld started with the Fendi sisters and, later, Silvia Venturini Fendi, the grand-daughter of the fashion house’s founder. Throughout, Mr Lagerfeld has forged a Fendi that’s, at first, known for their youthful, almost avant-garde way with fur, and in the last years before the designer’s demise, noted for a smart prettiness characterised by lightness, as seen in some of the best fabrications the house had ever shown. Mr Lagerfeld seemed surer then ever what he wanted Fendi to be.

Three days before the Fendi autumn/winter 2019/20 show, Mr Lagerfeld passed. Silvia Fendi took the customary bow at the end of the show, suggesting that from then, we thought, she’d be setting the design directions for the house. But the subsequent collections did not quite build on the foundation that her predecessor had strengthened. They were essentially store-friendly clothes. Ms Fendi took her family’s brand on an even more commercial route than the one Mr Lagerfeld—himself a commercial designer—embarked, one that, to us, was a stroll through Via del Corso, the Rome shopping stretch for high-street brands and what’s considered Roman.

This season—supposedly Ms Fendi’s last before she hands the creative reign to Kim Jones—is Fendi in pensive mood. According to media reports, the collection was based on photographs that Ms Fendi took from her bedroom window during the lockdown months in Italy. Shadows of gloomy windows and silhouettes of trees and foliage that rose beyond were projected onto white drapes, as if a scene in a horror film, set in an attic, with the floating curtains and an unknown entity creating the mood. It was strange that, as one of the first IRL shows of the Milan season with an actual audience (however not-packed), the Fendi presentation was this subdued, nearly cheerless. And the clothes mostly reflected this stay-at-home-and-look-at-the-window melancholia.

To further underscore the domestic (and, we’re told, “familial”) setting in which the clothes could look right, Ms Fendi talked of bed linens that inspired some comforter-looking outerwear (for spring/summer?). She said that they reminded her of Karl Lagerfeld, who collected sheets, and is known to travel with his own (possibility including quilt covers?). Interestingly, window drapes has a link to the man too. He once regaled the press by saying, “My mother said: ‘I’m going to have to take you to the upholsterer. Your nostrils are too big—they need curtains.’” 

We’ere not sure if Mr Lagerfeld wanted to be remembered for bedsheets and window curtains, but Fendi did consider them. Regardless of what will happen next spring and summer, it would probably still have to do with what many have discovered during lockdowns and social distancing: comfort dressing, or how we’re supposedly attired at home. This could possibly be Fendi’s least dressed-up collection since dressing up is not presently quite on our minds. Sure, there is the lace skirt for lunch with the BFFs, the body-con dress for dates, the jumpsuit for running errands. And, oh, pantsuits for, presumably, work. But it isn’t easy to place them in the present or why Fendi thought that, in six months’ time, when the workforce may be entirely back to the office, women would want a three-piece suit.

To be sure, the clothes will be considered desirable since they don’t require unpacking to understand. With the references to soft furnishings of home, they could easily be a wardrobe that can be worn just outside the wardrobe. Or, on a trip to the supermarket. Ensuring that fashion touches were not altogether eliminated, there were the sheerness (some printed with the afternoon shadows you might catch on window drapes), the appliques to lift otherwise plain fabrics to a higher level, or those seen-before pencil-like lines outlining coats and dresses. But is the sum adequate to give Fendi the edgines (or buzziness) that other brands under the parent company LVMH are able to project? Silvia Venturini Fendi is probably aware of her limitations. Kim Jones is just the name to headline her family’s 95-year-old brand.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Fendi

Does Kim Jones Need A Second Job?

Fendi’s Karl Lagerfeld replacement is, like the late designer, already gainfully employed at the point of hire

The breaking news earlier today was the appointment of Kim Jones at Fendi. Mr Jones will not be leaving his post at Dior Men. He will be holding two positions: his current duties at Dior and as Fendi’s “artistic director of haute couture, ready-to-wear, and fur collections for women”, as described in a media release. This arrangement is not unlike that of his predecessor Karl Lagerfeld, who, among many other projects, including his own line, designed for Chanel and Fendi. Mr Jones’s dual role won’t be a professional challenge for him since back in his early years at Louis Vuitton, he was also designing for Dunhill and, if we remember correctly, his eponymous line.

But, does Kim Jones need two jobs at present? This was the first thing that struck us. Or, is LVMH—in wealth-protection mode—not hiring from outside of the company? Many good designers—both from the old guard and new breed—are unemployed. With the pandemic not satisfactorily mitigated, unemployment among fashion designers would likely remain significant. Could Mr Jones and LVMH not have given others a chance when design positions are dwindling? Could Mr Jones not have recommended someone to Fendi as he did to LV, resulting in the appointment of Virgil Abloh? Or, is Fendi a real catch?

As posted on Mr Jones’s Instagram eight hours ago, “working across two such prestigious house is a true honour as a designer and to be able to join the house of Fendi as well as continuing my work at Dior Men’s is a huge privilege.”

The privilege is, of course, easy. Fendi, founded in 1925, was partially acquired by LVMH in 1999, with Prada being the other partner. After Prada sold their shares to LVMH in 2002, the latter is now the majority owner of Fendi. It’s not surprising that Fendi would look to other LVMH subsidiaries (Tiffany’s now unlikely to join the stable) to find the brand’s next artistic director. And if so, the target is obvious.

Hedi Slimane at Celine has the carte blanch to do as he pleases. It is unlikely he’d want to take on another brand, one that is still watched by a matriarch. Kris Van Assche at Berluti isn’t a commercial wunderkind that Mr Jones is to be able to keep Fendi’s sale performance glowing. Matthew Williams at Givenchy was just appointed and has not proved his mettle. Felipe Oliveira Baptista at Kenzo is too new to test, so is Guillaume Henry at Patou. Maria Grazia Chiuri? Nah. Rihanna? Nah. Marc Jacobs? He’s across the pond. Or, Nicholas Ghesquiere at LV Women? He’s not a right fit. As for Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, he is too right for the Spanish house for Fendi to touch.

For too long Fendi has been steered by Mr Lagerfeld. Now, they clearly want what Mr Jones is able to give to Dior Men. As Fendi CEO Serge Brunschwig, shared on IG, “Kim will bring his contemporary one of a kind point of view into the world of Fendi”. Hyped sneakers, to start with?

Illustration: Just So

First Strike

Just as we were learning that the SG authorities will limit the gathering outside of school and work to 10 people, and that entertainment spots are to close, we were brought to the attention of luxury retail’s first victim of the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Toshin Development Sg mail to tenant 24 Mar 2020

This notice was brought to our attention this afternoon. The communique was signed by Toshin Development Singapore’s general manager Shuichi Hidaka. It informed tenants of the 27-year-old Takashimaya Shopping Centre that a case of COVID-19 was confirmed and “that an employee at one of the stores at Level 1 had contracted the virus”.

Although the tenant was not identified in the mail, news had spread among the mall’s retail personnel after lunch that a female staffer at Fendi (situated on level 1) had tested positive for COVID-19 today. SOTD has not been able to independently established the veracity of this mail or what’s been shared on social media, but readers who had visited Takashimaya Shopping Centre earlier, told us that Fendi, refurbished just three years ago, was closed, the area around it was cordoned off, and a large cleaning crew was “hard at work”.

20-03-25-16-09-43-340_decoA discreet, surprisingly weak-resolution notice in a small font size next to the closed main door of Fendi. No mention of an infected staff. Photo: Gwen Goh

Toshin Development Singapore, the Japanese-owned company that manages the spaces outside Takashimaya Department Store—from basement 2 to level 4—on which the 130-plus specialty and luxury boutiques are spread, assured tenants that the building’s Emergency Response Team “was immediately activated to disinfect all affected common areas in Takashimaya Shopping Centre and Ngee Ann City (NAC).”

While that is reassuring and an appreciable rapid response, it has not stopped alarmists from quickly telling the public: “Pls do not meet any of their staff for now till they have completed their 14 days quarantine (sic).” Or, worse, “Try to Avoid NAC, just in case.” Luxury/fashion retail is now a veritable ghost town. Persistent scare-mongering isn’t going to help.

Update (22.30): Fendi has issued a statement to confirm that an employee has tested positive, and the six colleagues in the store will be on a 14-day isolation. The Takashimaya Shopping Centre store will be closed until 26 March 2020