Fendi Is Keeping The Spirit Of Karl Lagerfeld Alive One Suit At A Time
Decades ago, before Silvia Venturini Fendi took over men's design duties at her family's fashion house, she spent her childhood summers by the sea. Her mom would buzz Venturini Fendi's hair clean off—to keep it healthy—and, since her instincts for menswear took shape at a young age, she would dress herself in black trousers and collared shirts. One day, while Venturini Fendi was out strolling with her sister and nanny, a fruit vendor walked out of her shop to offer her condolences: “ ‘Oh, poor girls, are they orphans?’ ” Venturini Fendi recalls. “[The nanny] said, ‘Are you crazy? They are in fashion!’ ” Now the singular devotion to menswear that once made her look like a stray helps her guide one of Italy's most enduring brands with daring and ease.
Venturini Fendi often invites guest artists to collaborate with her. None were more influential, she says, than the late Karl Lagerfeld, who designed Fendi's womenswear and worked with her on the fall collection before he passed away in February. “I said to him, ‘Why don't you design me a beautiful suit, the one you would like to wear?’ ” she says. “The day after, on my mobile, the sketch arrived.”
The resulting fall-winter 2019 collection interpreted Lagerfeld's silhouette across suits, trenches, and snuggly fur coats. It is Fendi at its most bellissimo—weaving the history of the brand with elements from modern fashion.
Take the Baguette bag: Venturini Fendi ushered in the concept of the It bag when the design was introduced, 22 years ago. Now that men have taken to statement satchels with gusto, she is giving them an ultra-2019 crossbody Baguette.
Venturini Fendi noticed a pattern on Instagram, too, that informed her design process: Followers ate up—sometimes literally—anything that flashed the iconic Fendi double-F logo print. “If I post a picture of mozzarella made of the logo, people become crazy,” she says. “A Fendi pizza! Oh, my God—I would die to have it.” In the new collection, the print, already a street-style star, thanks to the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Ariana Grande, and Quavo, appears on zip-up jackets, bags, and bucket hats.
But the essence of the fall collection comes back to Lagerfeld, who participated in every era of men's tailoring. He famously slimmed down to fit into Hedi Slimane's shrunken Dior suits, was infatuated with Japanese tailoring for a period, and eventually wore his signature black suits and starched white shirts practically everywhere. “Through Karl, you can read the evolution of the suit,” she says. The collection melds all those references together to create something new.
Venturini Fendi knew Lagerfeld practically her entire life. He was a mentor, and one lesson he passed on stands out to her. “Normally we bow together on the catwalk [for women's collections], and the minute we go backstage, we always say, ‘And now the next,’ ” she says. Meaning: There is no use dwelling on the past when there is so much to be excited for in the future.
A version of this story appears in the Fall 2019 issue of GQ Style with the title “3 Labels on Fire.”