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Published
Jan 27, 2022
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Fendi: Roman Rationalism, complicated couture

Published
Jan 27, 2022

Fendi staged its latest couture show inside the former home of the Paris Bourse on Thursday. But while its owner LVMH continues to flourish on the French stock market, Fendi did not exactly enjoy a winning couture session this season.


 



Underlining the brand’s roots, the house’s creative director for women Kim Jones had production house Bureau Betak build an intriguing set. A series of skeleton shapes mimicking Rationalist architecture of the 1930s. The same style as seen in Fendi’s dramatic headquarters in the Palazzo della CiviltàItaliana, in the Fascist-era neighborhood of EUR in Rome.
 
A similar style crept over multiple grandiose satin gowns in the collection, which featured architectural and sculptural prints of centurions tilling their fields or suffering saints or matrons. Some of these dresses worked, most did not. Though there were several brilliant Rationalist architects such as Terragni, Libera or De Renzi, its statuary evoked many of the ideas of Mussolini’s Italy. And the result is heavy, lumpen figures designed to support an authoritarian government. If you doubt that, then check out the statues at the Foro Italico sports complex built for the 1930 Olympics, as a propaganda for the regime. Or visit EUR itself.

Other than that, the clothes didn't seem terribly new, and frequently looked rather heavy. Rarely have we seen the Roman-born supermodel – one of the world’s great runway stars – Mariacarla Boscono – look less at ease in a look. She practically drowned inside a massive tent of a sapphire satin coat.
 
Some commercial hits could be admired, from the ecru satin sheath finished with fabric flowers, to the brilliant ribbed fur bolero with peak shoulders. But they did not save this collection.
 
Nor were the proceedings helped by soundtrack, led by the noisily industrial and melancholic Emerald Rush by Jon Hopkins. The house of Fendi claims that growth has accelerated in recent years. However, despite being a publicly quoted company LVMH does not break out the annual revenues of any of its brands, so we will have to take their word for that, won’t we?
 
Ironically, the show comes 10 days after Jones’ truly exceptional show and collection for Dior Men, also staged in Paris. But if the British designer reigns supreme as menswear’s most influential designer, he still struggles to impose a coherent vision at Fendi.
 
Hard as it is to admit, if you ask most well-informed people what was the best Fendi collection since Karl Lagerfeld died in February 2019 they would probably respond that it was Silvia Fendi’s ancient Roman-inspired couture show inside the forum of the Eternal City, held just before the pandemic struck.
 

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