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“What I learnt from Silvia Fendi was an obsession with customisation, and a quirky attitude.” So said Alessandro Michele when asked about his time at Fendi, where he worked on accessories before joining Gucci in 2002.
The obsession with customisation is still at play at the house: for SS16, Silvia Fendi has been playing with floral appliqué strapping on a “Strap You” bag — introduced for resort and now given new opportunity for personalisation. The straps will be sold separately to “mix and match”, she said of the accessories. Furry monsters are out, flowers are in. The bags will also be offered in an alphabetised intrecciato, a traditional method of weaving leather that inspired a fresh take on the monogram. Her eye for an “it” accessory is still acute.
Fendi, now part-owned by LVMH, remains a rather lovely anomaly in fashion: a family business with ferocious ambition built on deep foundations. Silvia Fendi, a third-generation member of the clan and co-creative director of menswear and accessories since 1987, designs alongside Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld marked his own 50-year relationship with the house in May, although he refused to celebrate one of the longest working partnerships in fashion — Lagerfeld detests retrospection.
Obviously, then, he didn’t want to discuss the Tudor tone of the show’s opening look: a scarlet playsuit, smocked at the neck and falling into bloomer shorts — like a saucy knave. Or the medieval mood of the corset tops worn over white blouson shirts. “I didn’t take a historical reference,” said Lagerfeld backstage. “I just wanted to create a soft-lined silhouette to sit against the concrete garden [of the austere grey catwalk].”
He had played with difficult proportions: a pantaloon-style denim trouser ballooned beneath the knee but “looked good on the leg”, and he was pleased with the clashing tonal interplay: a “coral” leather blouson had been paired with a vivid “fire” skirt, and he loved his use of “two bright blues” in one outfit.
Silvia Fendi was quicker to credit the references: “Victorian, medieval and Tudor silhouettes”, so chosen because they are “all times when women were strong and tough”. So had she borrowed from those eras’ crafts and folkloric details. A letterbox-red miniskirt was made in basket weave. A summer fur was fashioned like rattan or wicker.
Such old-school methods: such modern clothes. Artisanal never looked so sexy. “Well,” said Lagerfeld, “you want a woman to look very feminine: we don’t want to be too serious and give a lesson in fashion.” Lesson learnt.
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