Fendi, Trevi Fountain and the Magic of Italian Heritage

Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld in Alta Moda Rome Trevi Fountain, closing runway

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Whoever knows me probably also knows how obsessed I am with Dolce & Gabbana—as a brand—and the way in which the designers perform their Italian-ness in very particular ways with each and every one of their collections. But, in many ways, this outward expression of national identity in fashion design is common to Italian designers and fashion houses… And if anyone has any doubts, let me just mention Fendi’s Alta Moda runway show from last week.

Set in one of the most fantastic places on Earth—Rome or, more specifically, the Trevi Fountain—the Fendi Alta Moda show was nothing less than a fairytale: a recently restored masterpiece of the mid-eighteenth century and fairy-like models dressed in magical dresses walking on the clear waters illuminated by silvery lights. In fact, and by no means coincidentally, the collection itself was titled “Legends and Fairy Tales”, a topic clearly reflected in the design motifs on the fabrics, featuring enchanted forests and fantastical creatures.

Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld in Alta Moda Rome Trevi Fountain, Bella Hadid closing runway

In many ways, however, the legends and fairy tales also alluded to Italy, to Rome; for Fendi is a legend of Italian design, which is no less important than the arts, of which the Trevi Fountain is only a glimpse. For decades—if not more—the allure of the “Made in Italy” has driven luxury fashion markets, especially in the case of leatherwear, Fendi’s particular specialty. And for centuries, colourful designs and heavily decorated dresses have symbolised the taste of the different areas of the Italian peninsula. One has only to look at a few Renaissance paintings to notice it…

This is perhaps most clear in the few dresses made out of fabrics that recall the gold brocades present in high-end garments worn by the elites in Renaissance Florence and later in Rome. These, in addition to the floral motifs mostly embroidered with a variety of colours, vaporous fabrics of cream and pastel colours with seductive transparencies that highlight the wearer’s elegance, and trees and foliage of all kinds are the main characteristics of this collection. And, of course, these are topped-up by the playful touch of the accessories—bags, in particular—which has been made famous by the furry charms that seem to have invaded the purses of women all around the world, as well as shoes in bold colours with figurative designs.

The historical imagery, exploited beautifully by Fendi especially in conjunction with the magical landscape brought to life thanks to the backdrop of the Trevi fountain, is also common in Dolce & Gabbana. I have written more profoundly about them in the past (and I invite you to read the article if you missed it), and they are clearly fluent in the language of recreating national identity, Italian-ness, through their designs. And this time, celebrating in Naples none other than the Italian diva Sophia Loren, they also revived the Renaissance-inspired textile motifs, filled with colours and figurative motifs, while combining them with all sorts of historical shapes and—what they seem to have been exploiting more and more avidly with the years—extravagant accessories. But that is a topic I will discuss in my next article…

See all of Fendi Fall 2016 Couture Collection

Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld in Alta Moda Rome Trevi Fountain, details