Fendi, the first big show of Milan Fashion Week, opened with a flourish and a catwalk adorned with 20ft marble-effect sculptures of giant Baguette and Peekaboo bags, the brand’s big hits. This meant seating was severely restricted, but there was plenty of room on the front row for paparazzi bait in the form of Demi Moore, Cara Delevingne, Gwendoline Christie, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista.
Those monumental white bags did more than take up space, though. They are a reminder, as if it were needed, that Fendi is all about its accessories. The 98-year-old label, founded as a family-owned furrier in Rome, has transformed into a £4.5 bn business whose greatest hits are its era-defining handbags. (Who can forget the Baguette’s starring role in Sex and the City?)
It’s now owned by LVMH, but the Fendi family – in the form of the brand’s accessories supremo, Silvia Fendi, and her jewellery designer daughter, Delfina – set the tone. The artistic director, British designer Kim Jones, admitted as much before the show.
Every model on the runway wore neat little day gloves in lemon, sky blue, and bright orange, “to highlight the bags” as Jones said. The clutches, purses and small, Grace Kelly-pleasing top-handle bags were Smarties-bright in orange, yellow, and a python print that Karl Lagerfeld introduced when he was designing for the house in the 1990s – Jones has clearly had fun mining the archives.
The shoes – an array of kitten-heeled boots, neat court shoes and sleek flats with a gold bangle round the ankle – were just as colourful and moreish. The whole show was as richly accessorised as any wealthy Roman matron, with practically every model sporting a large gold ear cuff or ring (or both) courtesy of Delfina, along with the gloves and arm candy.
The ladylike, Hitchcock-blonde effect was enhanced by the sophisticated, grown-up mannish overcoats and jackets (Jones’s other role is as menswear designer for Dior) and long, drapey jersey dresses or wide-legged cropped trousers in a palette of zingy egg-yolk yellow, baby blue and shades of caramel and fawn.
There were miniskirts for those who like to flash some leg, and keyhole polonecks for anyone who might prefer a bit more coverage. There was also a white shirt “that Karl would wear himself,” according to Jones.
And instead of scowling and stomping along to a frenetic soundtrack, these models sauntered languidly down the plain white carpet “as if they were walking down the street in Rome”, said the designer.
Despite its growth, Fendi has remained essentially what it was when it started almost a century ago: a female-centric family business. It is to Jones’s credit that he understands that and allows the accessories their moment in the sun.