Fendi takes Ancient Rome into outer space for its SS22 couture show
In his first IRL couture show for the Roman house, Kim Jones drew exquisite parallels between the distant past and future.
Images courtesy of Fendi
Isn’t it funny how sci-fi films always have a touch of class-civ to them? In galaxies far away, the vestiges of an ancient past often lend themselves to fantasies of faraway futures, the most tangible connections being clothes that usually resemble the classical drapery of togas worn by bygone emperors and Greek gods. Watching Star Wars or Dune, there are times where it often feels as if they could either be set 3000 BC or 3000 AD; both being distant enough to elicit a sense of timelessness. Kim Jones has gotten into sci-fi over Christmas, reading both of the books that the aforementioned films are based on, and thinking about the past, present and future — and how that relates to time and space (he also saw the Aurora Borealis on a trip to Iceland last month; go figure). As a result, his third couture show for Fendi, shown yesterday in the Palais Brongniart, was titled “Celestial Rome” — a sort of palimpsest of the ancient and the space-age; Spartacus made sci-fi. In a nutshell, majestic Roman empresses descending to earth for the first time; spaceships flying over the time-weathered columns of the Coliseum; couture as an affirmation of clothes made to treasure forever, into eternity.
The show took place in the pitch-black room, with the architecture of Fendi’s HQ, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, fragmented and exploded into glowing lights, almost like a constellation of stars. “When you walk down the street in Rome, you are constantly moving back and forth in time,” Kim explained during a preview. “Where we work feels very modern, but you pass monuments on the way there. There’s a total timelessness to the city: a historic vein which runs through it, but also a movement that is projecting forwards.” As the show started, luminous plumes of white smoke writhed around spaceship-like sliding doors. From them emerged an army of empresses, high priestesses, and warrior women with embroidered second-skins and alien-like faces dotted with diamonds.
Although this was Kim’s third couture collection for Fendi, it is the first shown in Paris before an actual audience (many of which arrived in the Maison’s equivalent of a team football jersey: furs, monograms, and more Fendi baguettes than you could count). It provided the opportunity to really see the immense amount of work that goes into these evening-centric clothes, like the furry capes sheared three-dimensionally so as to echo the contours of fountains — and then hand-painted with chiaroscuro depictions of statues outside Fendi HQ. Elsewhere, there were ghostly shadows of opulent fabrics, photographed and distorted, that were printed onto duchesse silk and organza and illuminated with marble-like mother-of-pearl. Stripes of bugle-beads — sleeker and more space age than other beads — adorned the edges of jedi drapes, which somehow still had a razor-sharp severity to them. Satins and chiffons in purple, the expensively-dyed colour once reserved for the emperors according to ancient Sumptuary Laws, was matched with the deepest red.
If Rome is about monumental architecture of the oldest variety, couture is about the architecture of clothes — which is why there were exposed underpinnings to serve as a reminder of the hands that made them. Long trains darting out of micro-length dresses resembled the kind of ecclesiastical robes of cardinals, albeit with that subversive edge of bare legs and spiky jewellery by Delfina Delettrez. Rome is a city of both saints and sinners, after all, and though this collection was about the past and future, the reality of the present is that women want to feel sexy again — Kim said that shorter lengths have been the most sought-after by Fendi’s couture clients.
Ultimately, this collection was about the visual language of power — a celebration of the imperial majesty of women draped in finery to face their uncertain futures. The world is changing rapidly, and whereas some billionaires may opt for utilitarian self-sufficient “shelter villas” on New Zealand’s North Island to weather out the apocalypse, it’s perfectly acceptable that others will want to while away their days in Paris, shopping for one-of-a-kind dresses and Persian-lamb armour to get through whatever inhospitable circumstances the end of days will bring. Or, perhaps they’ll get on that space voyager in search of another planet. They’ll still need something to wear out there, right?
All images courtesy of Fendi.