Couture kaiser Karl Lagerfeld marshals the Italian capital's high fashion temple into its tenth decade.
Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi, who oversee the brand’s designs, walk the runway.
“Fendi is Italian to its core,” says longtime creative director Karl Lagerfeld. “It’s not only Italian, it’s Roman.” The wonderfully prolific Lagerfeld, who has been at the helm of Fendi for longer than many of us have been alive—since 1965—claims it’s easy to differentiate the Italian collection from those of Chanel and his namesake label, the other two fashion houses under his direction. “I don’t have one personality, I have three,” the designer muses. “Fendi is my Italian version, Chanel my French version, and Lagerfeld is my own version. I never made something that looked like Chanel at Fendi and never made something that looked like Fendi at Chanel, because both have a [separate] identity.”
There is perhaps no greater tribute to Fendi’s quintessential romanità than the staging of its 90th anniversary fashion show upon Rome’s Trevi Fountain in July. Models literally walked on water—an illusion created by a clear platform placed over the newly-restored fountain and pool—revealing a collection inspired by illustrations of legends and fairy tales.
“Very romantic, but modern at the same time,” says Lagerfeld of the collection, which comprised whimsical, flowing dresses, many with Botticelli-esque empire waists; white lace dresses buried in appliquéd flowers; and lavish fabrications such as lush layers of tulle and velvet—pieces that look like they hail from an enchanted forest. Part and parcel of the 90th-anniversary collection, Fendi has released a limited-edition Selleria Peekaboo handbag, a one-of-a-kind accessory made entirely by hand in 60 pieces.
The bag features punto baseball, or baseball stitching, a larger-form stitching technique handed down through the generations by Roman master saddlers. The Peekaboo bags are exclusively sold at the Palazzo Fendi boutique in Rome. And, if you happen to be in the Italian capital, head to the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, where you will find “Fendi Roma: The Artisans of Dreams” (through October 29), an exhibition that celebrates the maison’s nine decades of craftsmanship and creativity.
For those who can’t make it to Rome, the short film Fendi: Hands Make Beauty, available online, highlights the brand’s evolution, and the coffee-table book Fendi Roma, a recent release from Assouline, explores Fendi’s connection with the Eternal City. Lagerfeld, now 83, says he’s still brimming with ideas and is given the freedom to create what he wants at Fendi. So expect plenty more from Italian Karl in years to come. It’s not work, he insists.
“Work is when a person wakes up every morning and goes to do something they don’t like,” he says. “I have the chance of doing something I love and doing it [in] the best conditions... I’m interested in a lot of things, even more today than before. I like to change while the world is changing. That’s what fashion is all about!” Saks Fifth Avenue, 700 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-6500