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

Walking Out Of The Shadow Of Karl Lagerfeld

Is Silvia Venturini Fendi now tracking her own path? Or did she learn well from a former part-time employee?

 

Fendi AW 2020 P1

Fendi. The moment they tried moving the focus away from the founding business of fur (for obvious reasons), the Roman house has placed significant emphasis and resources on its ready-to-wear unit, which is today 43 years old. While the late Karl Lagerfeld has been credited with modernising Fendi’s fur designs, not many—even members of the press—seriously note (or remember) that it was Mr Lagerfeld who launched the furrier’s RTW in 1997. And steered its direction till his death last year. Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld were synonymous. Although Mr Lagerfeld did credit third-gen Fendi, Silvia Venturini (she of the Baguette bag fame), as co-creator of the RTW, the designs had been in the aesthetical signature and whim of the German designer.

It has been a year since Mr Lagerfeld passed on rather suddenly. There was no known succession plan at Fendi. His design partner at the house since the mid-’90s decided that she could go on. Alone. Ms Fendi largely kept to Mr Lagerfeld’s codes for the house in her first solo RTW outing last season. A theme (something “solar”, if we remember correctly) running through the collection, however, saw Ms Fendi dancing dangerously on the grounds of parody. In addition, it was too post-Lagerfeld, a wobbly stance between homage and breaking free, which led to some observers fearing that Fendi would be like Chanel: lost. Perhaps it was take-over jitters. However, Ms Fendi now seems to have found her footing. Or, able to express herself without the “captain”. And the collection she presents for next fall is surprising, and a joy to view.

Fendi AW 2020 G1Fendi AW 2020 G2

Ms Fendi has learnt well from her former collaborator: don’t let a good idea fade into the surfeit of the mediocre. This season, there are those statement sleeves, based on the idea of what could be a baguette shape (that bread again!), pulled down and away from the edge of the shoulder. Sticklers of conventionally-set sleeves may find Fendi’s elongated puffs ungainly, but we do consider them a welcome study of volume for a part of the body usually preferred when slender. What’s amazing is how, with manipulating the size and proportion, it is then applied on a wide variety of garments: coats, blazers, dresses, cardigans, blouses (sheer, as well), even rompers!

Ms Fendi’s known love of cinema is also captured, saluting how and what it was before in the movie world, on screen and off screen. That the clothes are imbued with bygone romance than cliched cinematic glamour make them more than facsimiles of period trends. A couple of beautiful dresses with seemingly thrown-on scarves (but are, in fact, part of the outfits), forming an X across the upper bodice fall in with the gracefulness and elegance of those designed by Hollywood costumer Adrian. Others could have been gleaned from Italian movies—vintage-y prints; contrast collars; slim, calf-length skirts—are in sync with the Italians’ love, this season, of lady-like dressed-up given just the right touch of the kooky. And la dolce Roma.

Fendi AW 2020 G3Fendi AW 2020 G4

There is some aesthetic/visual contradiction too. Ms Fendi showed double-breasted suit-jackets and their leather cousins with boning that suggests corsets. Nothing wrong in emphasizing the waist, until two plus-sized models later appeared, with one of them in the similar suggestion of a constricted middle. Not to make an issue of it, but the incongruity is noticeable, and the different effect of the horizontal boning on the skinny and not are just as evident. It is not clear what the intention is other than to join the increasingly audible chorus demanding inclusivity. Would Fendi welcome diverse body types beyond this season’s token two?

Splendid coats, striking dresses, sapid skirts, and between them elements that come together to spell stand out—Silvia Venturini Fendi is on to a good (re)start. And a re-positioning for the now LVMH-owned brand beyond furs and accessories. In addition to the legacy of Karl Lagerfeld, Ms Fendi, too, has the input of two British fashion forces, the stylist Charlotte Stockdale (also one-half of the label Chaos), as well as Mr Lagerfeld’s right-hand consultant at Chanel, Amanda Harlech. Could this be the new power trio to re-energise Milan Fashion Week? Let’s see.

Photos: Fendi

Two Rode Together

One of the oddest pairings this season is Fendi and Porter

 

Fendi X Porter AW 2019The Fendi X Porter Baguette (top) and Peekaboo (below). Photos: Fendi

There have been calls in recent years for less collaborations, but not many brands heed the recommendation. Two names, preferably poles apart, coming together for one purpose—hyped-up merchandise—don’t always yield desirable results. Examples are too numerous to warrant space here for honourable mention. Yet, so numerous and persistent have collaborations become that over-collaboration is more real than results with value and usefulness. Some brands exist on product collaboration, rather than product development. Collab fatigue has been reported, but that’s hardly a deterrent. Have we not heard enough of Supreme with this or that, yielding meaningless non-clothing products—shovel, just to name one? To paraphrase Andy Warhol, perhaps, fashion (not just art) is what you can get away with.

One of the most don’t-know-what-to-make-of-this collaborations this season is that of Fendi and Porter. By strange, we don’t mean weird, but as likely as Gucci teaming up with Goop—it could happen, but really shouldn’t. Fendi, which CNN calls “one of Italy’s most powerful and storied luxury fashion houses”, are already bag makers with their own bag-making unit, but this could be onward march for them to go more street, in tandem with many Italians brands play catch-up. It is, however, not the same for Porter, already an established and respectable name in Japan for bags that don’t count the hard attache case as chum.

It is possible that to the young, I’ll-buy-anything Fendi fan, the pairing does not really matter. Fendi could have collaborated with Anello (that would be irony making a comeback!), and they would rush to pre-order, which, in the case of Fendi X Porter, was available more than a month earlier, thus ensuring that the limited-edition bag shall be sold out when they eventually hit the store, unbeknown to the casual shopper.

Porter pop-up in TokyoIn the Porter Omotaesando, Tokyo store, an installation dedicated to the products from its collab with Fendi. Photo: Porter

In Tokyo, those who do not personally receive phone calls from their regular salesperson for pre-orders are a lot luckier than us, as Porter has set up what they call an “installation” at the brand’s Omotaesando store, showing the styles in all colours and sizes. When we arrived at Fendi at ION Orchard this morning, a very late two days after the bags became available, we were met by a sales girl who happily declared that the bags were “all sold out, except these two”, showing us the black Baguette and and gray Peekaboo with a capaciousness clearly created for men (later told to us by a Chanel collector that they are known as XLs), both still in their protective plastic bags, which were eventually removed for our inspection.

The bags have a familiar hand feel as they’re made of Porter’s signature nylon used in their popular Tanker series. And like the Tanker bags, the insides of these two come in contrast-coloured lining of orange, purportedly known as Indian Orange. The Peekaboo, less appealing to us, look like a work bag that won’t really be carried for work. More interesting was the Baguette. The original was introduced in 1997 and its extreme popularity lasted into the early 2000. The latest version we were holding is designed for men—a direction Dior took with its Saddle Bag. But guys do not have the tendency to carry bags under their upper arm, which was how creator of the Baguette, Silvia Venturini Fendi, saw women using the bag as if securing roti perancis (hence its name). The XL Baguette, with XL logo-clasp, now comes with the masculine addition of straps on its sides so that it can be used as a bum-bag!

It isn’t yet certain if this pair of “iconic” Fendi bags given the Porter treatment will enhance the Japanese brand’s already strong international standing, but it may shine a light on Fendi’s increasingly visible target of the younger—a lot younger—customer. Yet, the remake of once popular bags is not quite the same as pairing with a brand to take advantage of its unique design voice: this does not match Marni’s and Missoni’s collaboration with Porter, both with resultant products that had a certain edge and quirk that enchanted. We left Fendi no longer thinking of the bags we came to see. Rather, we’re wondering who we could call to help us score the Kolor X Porter bags, presently available only in Japan. Even if they only appeared in our dreams, we’d be happy.

 

Fendi At Its Finest

Fendi W AW 2019

Did Karl Lagefeld know that this would be his last collection for Fendi?

For someone who only looks to the future, probably not (“what is important is what I will do, not what I have done in the past”, he tended to say). Yet there is a sense that he gave all he had for this Fendi collection with the view that there might not be another. This is arguably one of the best collections he had conceived for the Roman house, where he had served as its ready-to-wear design head for 54 years—“the longest collaboration in fashion”, he had declared. The tailoring is sharp, the quirkiness unmistakable. This is fashion for those who cares more about stylish clothes that house codes.

Being a Karl Lagerfeld-designed collection, however, some things won’t be absent: the high, conspicuous Edwardian collars; straight but not overly emphatic shoulders; no-nonsense shirts, proper but not uninteresting skirts. Yet, there is not anything what might today be called ‘iconic’. They come together with other elements to form ensembles that are appealingly current—not cloyingly feminine, not unnecessarily street, no extremes. Despite the collection’s youthful vibe,you do not sense it is designed by an octogenarian trying to do young.

Fendi W AW 2019 G1

Between the two brands Mr Lagerfeld designed for those many decades, we have always preferred Fendi, the Roman label once run by five sisters (the cheekily wicked say six!) and is now part of the LVMH stable of luxury names. Mr Lagefeld joined Fendi—the other brand after Chanel that offered him a “lifelong” contract—in 1963. In luxury fashion, this is an anomaly: a freelancer working for one brand for over 50 years. During his time there, he not only revolutionise Fendi as furriers, he created their ready-to-wear from scratch.

In Fendi, it is possible that Mr Lagerfeld found the freedom to really express. From the beginning, he had no interest in leaving a legacy or creating what other brands call DNA. In the years designing for other brands, he was happy to create what he thought was au courant. While lightness was always associated with Karl Lagerfeld (even the Fendi furs, at some point, were light, including those designed to be worn in summer), there was not a discernible Karl Lagerfeld look. Aesthetically unshackled, he would create a Fendi not burdened by a past. Fendi could be whatever the trend of the moment is. Perhaps this “flexibility” endeared him to other brands. When Chanel had him on board in 1983, they were probably certain they would not be getting a variation of Fendi. But if Karl Lagerfeld didn’t have a distinct style and Fendi does not have the history that Chanel does, it would appear that Fendi has no look either.

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Fendi W AW 2019 G3

While Fendi as a brand has succumbed to the street wear craze, it has remained largely true to its Italian elegance, offering stylish clothes with just the right touch of off. They are not Marni, of course, but in the hands of Karl Lagerfeld, they have kept to a femininity that is not frothy, but ethereal (compounded by incredible fabrics they are able to develop), all the while tempered by Mr Lagerfeld’s not exactly soft tailoring. There is none of the intellectual heft of Prada, nor the culturally-derived goofiness of Gucci, but compelling nonetheless.

For us, this collection leaves behind a good memory, a neat end to an era. We like the the surprise of the sash tied at the rear of shirts, coats, even dresses, like a forgotten belt; the mix of sheer or skin-visible with the solid (but not heavy); and, especially, a sense of the sublime without trying to be too clever about it. Fendi, as it appears, has a solid foundation.

Photos: Fendi