“It’s very 21st century, everything is hyperlinked. The 3D fur embroidery, the femininity and cutting-edge clothes - often rounded, geometrical, architectural - everything combines to create a spectacular set of incredibly contemporary images.” Karl Lagerfeld
The term “ukiyo” or “floating world” was used to describe the pleasure-seeking lifestyle of city-dwellers in Tokyo in the Edo period (1600-1867) who whiled away their evenings in the capital’s chashitsu tea houses and kabuki theatres, its charms captured in the woodblock-printed “ukiyo-e” or “pictures of the floating world” that travelled across the seas to Europe. In its seductive mixture of modern technology and traditional craft, and especially in its lightness, this world finds a 21st-century Roman echo in Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi’s spring/summer collection of laser-cut layers of coloured organza and mink furs sheared into floating graphic elements. Gowns designed for magical nights out in the Eternal City - strolling around the shimmering fountains that FENDI is in the process of restoring - were taken apart into complicated mathematical patterns and bright colour spectrums through which the body could be clearly seen. Models walking the runway with severe black bobs and mirrored sunglasses evoked androids, especially once electronic circuit patterns started appearing on their surfaces, while silhouettes of a computer’s insides could be seen in sharply cut panels comprising an angular 3D body architecture of soft leather and crocodile skin. This was a wonderful show of floating fabric innovations and extraordinary craftsmanship and - with FENDI’s London flagship store about to open on New Bond Street on May 2nd - who better than Karl Lagerfeld to explain it to us?
Who epitomises the FENDI woman for you?
A futuristic woman.
How would you describe her?
She is a very modern and contemporary woman looking towards innovative techniques and a futuristic allure, but also with a very attentive eye to craftsmanship and handmade artisanal abilities.
How would you describe the collection?
A game of proportions of the body. Playing with layering. It is a kind of dream-wear with the appropriation of all the house’s codes. Light materials like organza become the base for refined coats and dresses with fur workmanships that look like velvet. Because of the high expertise of our artisans fur is no longer synonymous with cold and winter. We celebrate this with a triumph of featherweight fur coats, dresses and tops that can be easily worn all summer long.
What inspired you this season?
It’s very 21st century, everything is hyperlinked. The 3D fur embroidery, the femininity and cutting-edge of the clothes - often rounded, geometrical, architectural - the natural hair and make-up, everything combines to create a spectacular set of incredibly contemporary images. For example, the workmanship in one of our coats is inspired by a computer’s electronic circuitry. The highest craftsmanship and savoir-faire of the artisans, mixed together with experimentations, give birth to a unique result. It is fascinating how the artisans need to train almost 10 years before they start cutting. They create art pieces not just garments.
How were you influenced by advances in fabric technology?
The crafting techniques - especially for the sheared mink and the organza - are very complicated. It is still crafted by people but crafted with new tools and technologies. This is the modernity of things. The weightless beauty of sheer organza. These amazing materials play as a “couture-base” on which the geometric fur elements are hand-cut and hand-embroidered, creating an amazing contrast. Techniques like the shaving of mink fur give lightness and a velvet-like feeling of soft comfort. Such “scolpitura” workmanship is a part of our heritage, where experimentation meets tradition. Used in this collection it is a very original technique that shapes the fur in a very geometric way as if it was a carved sculpture, and the result is a perfectly harmonious effect of weightless beauty. A feather weight. The particularity of the spring/summer furs is being in-between a fur and ready-to-wear product and this gives it an infinite versatility and exclusivity. An unexpected combination of fur and fabric. A masterpiece.
You’re always looking to the future. What’s coming next?
The big thing at FENDI at the moment is the moving of our headquarters to the giant and most famous Roman building of the 30s, Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. It’s a landmark building and from the terrace we can see all over Rome and as far the sea, so we can listen to the voices of Rome and Italy...
Can you tell us a secret about FENDI?
A secret should stay a secret… But the brand has been rooted in Italy from the first day of its creation in 1925, which soon will be 90 years. We have the possibility to be modern and avant-garde at the same time.