Ninety years going, not bad. For a fashion house, not bad at all. At its recent couture show, the Kaiser showed Fendi off to spectacular delight and it couldn’t be more enthralling. From its classic monogram to it’s baguette, Fendi has given fashion a lot of iconic moments. Not too long ago its shoes adorned several pairs of feet, on many arms hung the classic baguette, monogrammed coats, sunglasses etc. During this period, I saw a woman walking around Knightsbridge Fendi’d to the max in FF; coat, shoes, brolly, handbag and sunglasses. I think that was the moment Fendi peaked but somehow it has lasted the test and tide of fashion over the years and maintained its space of relevance. After over a decade since acquisition, I still cannot bring myself to part with my monogram bags just yet. Such is the iconic nature of the brand, that even when it’s so gauche it remains iconic.
This couture collection will go down as one of the most fantastical in the history of fashion, not least because it was hosted in Rome, over a crystallised bridge on the Trevi Fountain- models walking on water. Scratch that, it is the most fantastical show yet. The last time I visited Rome, the Trevi fountain was closed for renovation and when I visit again, I will always wonder what it was like seeing models walk on water as I make a wish and throw my penny into the fountain. Yes, I do that every time I visit. Iconically fantastical.
One of my favourite stories is Beauty and the Beast, it is one of the earlier teachings of true love that I can remember, and this collection reminds me of that in a lot of ways. At the intersection of Fashion and fairytales, something magical happens; it is akin to being in the fairytale. For that moment you are transported into a world that interrupts the meanderings of everyday life, and if anyone can whip a fairytale and cause such interruption it is Karl Lagerfeld. I am rarely inspired by what he does at Chanel, something about it feels stilted, but at Fendi, Karl can almost do no wrong, even when he produces the most basic of collections there is always something to it and it is certain to be a firm favourite. For this couture collection he was inspired by an old fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon- a tale of star crossed lovers, myths and fantasies, published first in 1914, it is a collection of fifteen stories by Norwegian Folklorists- Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engerbretsen Moe. Illustrated by Kay Neilsen, works which were reimagined on most of the collection, it is hailed as one of the most celebrated illustrated works of literature.
The collection was a fairy tale of love, of course, power and emotion, told through dark and light themes, it scares and intrigues, from one garment to the next. The tale is brought to life with the various motifs and prints- the moon illuminating the trees in the forest on a fur coat, floral applique on a delicate empire waist gown, lightness of the bright yellow sun bringing new hope as we approach the castle atop the hill- this in particular reminds me of the opening scene in beauty and the beast. There was a lightness expressed throughout, in the fur coats that moved with ease, the beautiful empire dresses in the most delicate of fabrics, all of which only heightened the finesse of the craftsmanship. I would imagine it took hours to create these looks. Intricate and romantic- the stories came to life with expert placements of prints and patterns against divine embroidery and beautiful palettes. It balanced the frenzied with a genteelness, tension and heartbreak with a play on light that moves us to feel. It also presents us with a powerful lone heroine, not a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued- its in the stance, the attitude, and embodied by Bella Hadid in her black cape ensemble- as if at the end of this ill-fated journey she moves on alone. It was beautiful and romantic and dramatic. Even more romantic with the setting, more beautiful than anything could have been in Paris the city of romance. And more dramatic than the a tale of love lost and found.
Another element to the collection was ultimately the setting. Rome, the great and glorious in all its grandness. Too much? Maybe, but so is walking on water dressed in most beautiful couture collections, against a back drop of kingly statues, it opens the mysterious city even more to the world in a way we are not accustomed. And all of this, is what makes me have an enormous amount of respect for Karl Lagerfeld, he finds a way make the usual unusual and new. Even if it gets repeated over the seasons we will always know that the Kaiser was the first one to stage a fashion show in the Trevi fountain, with the Vatican a few miles away. It doesn’t get more divinely fantistcal than that.