The Fendi story is one of strong women and even stronger familial bonds. Kim Jones is the man responsible for carrying Fendi into its post-Lagerfeld era. The brand unveiled its expanded flagship in The Dubai Mall at the end of November. Fendi’s signature furs, as well as a fine jewellery collection created by Delfina Delettrez Fendi, are only available here.
There are the founders, Adele and Edoardo Fendi, who established their first handbag and fur workshop in Rome in 1926; their five formidable daughters, who shaped the label into a global powerhouse; their granddaughter, Silvia Venturini Fendi, who joined the company in 1992 and continues to play a day-to-day role as artistic director of menswear, accessories, and children; and now her daughter, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, who serves as
This story is about more than simply biological relatives. “They believe in the open family, the chosen family,” says Fendi CEO Serge Brunschwig, who tells the Fendi narrative as if it were a modern-day fairy tale.
“In 1965, the five sisters make the choice to engage an unknown German designer and invite him to join the family. And then that man appears and begins to upend everything. ‘I’m going to chop up that fur you adore so much,’ he adds. I’m going to tear it apart, colour it, and rebuild it. And they agreed.”
New Era Of Fendi
That German designer was, of course, Karl Lagerfeld, who would spend the next 54 years of his life as a member of the Fendi family. Following his death in 2019, Silvia has welcomed “a new ‘Karl,’ whose name is Kim, and he is English this time, and joins with the same enthusiasm for the company and the Fendi woman,” according to Brunschwig.
As artistic director of Fendi’s couture and women’s collections, Kim Jones is responsible for leading the brand into the post-Lagerfeld period. A change in creative leadership after more than a half-century may appear to be a massive task, but the transfer has been quite seamless, according to Brunschwig, owing primarily to Lagerfeld’s own methods.
“Karl left two items. First, a feeling of the future. He would sit backstage at his concerts and cheer at the conclusion, then step up and say, ‘And now, next.’ He departed with the impression that tomorrow was more important than now. We bear the burden of constantly inventing the future. That will be his legacy.
“We also have this treasure trove of an archive. Kim is delighted to pay us a visit from time to time. Karl would never do it since he was constantly thinking about tomorrow. However, Kim has joined the family, and these jewels are now part of the legacy. He is willing to employ them if he believes they are pertinent to what he wishes to convey at the time.”
Jones’ masterpieces now have a new home in the UAE, thanks to the brand’s extended flagship at The Dubai Mall, which opened at the end of November. “Dubai and The Dubai Mall are tremendously significant luxury destinations,” adds Brunschwig. “I’ve always considered Dubai Mall to be a work of commercial architecture. It’s wonderful to be able to showcase the brand and its values in such a setting. If Dubai Mall remains what it is, a brand like Fendi would always prioritise it.”
The brand’s store, now twice in size, is spread across two stories, with a metal exterior, LED arches, and diagonal glass windows adorned with iconic Lagerfeld sketches. It provides a complete immersion into the Fendi world, with a display of leather goods and accessories, Fendi Casa furniture, men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, couture pieces, and the house’s signature furs, as well as a fine jewellery collection created specifically for the store opening and a number of other limited-edition pieces only available here. A Peekaboo Mini bag totally embroidered with crystal beads dipped in 24K gold and a silver Baguette bag with matching Fendi First slingback heels are among them.
The Baguette, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is one of Fendi’s most successful products. It became one of the world’s first It-bags after being immortalised in popular culture as one of Carrie Bradshaw’s go-to accessories in Sex and the City. It has been released in several variations since its debut in 1997, and to commemorate its silver anniversary, it is now available in 25 re-editions. Collaborations with Japanese brand Porter, actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who played Bradshaw, jewellery firm Tiffany & Co, and designer Marc Jacobs are on the way, demonstrating how the bag has served as an inspiration to many over the years.
“There is no better representation of our material competence,” Brunschwig says of the bag. “We can do 1,000 different variants, even though it is such a simple shape. That is why it is still so relevant today. It’s mind-boggling how Kim and Silvia have used it to commemorate the 25th anniversary.
“However, it cannot evolve just because it is a symbol. In some ways, it’s a living item. It is sacrosanct, but you have the right to adapt it to modern times. Which, in my opinion, is one of the secrets of luxury. How are you ensuring that the Baguette remains effective in today’s world? If you don’t accomplish it, you’ll end up in a museum.”
Nobody could accuse Fendi of being out of step with the times. A new plant in the Tuscan countryside is a prime example. The facility was designed with sustainability in mind, and it is on target to become the world’s first LEED Platinum-certified leather factory by early 2023. It is located on a 30,000-square-metre plot of land in Capannuccia that was once home to the Fornace Brunelleschi kiln and a brick quarry.
Fendi set out to revitalise the damaged terrain and “provide amazing circumstances for our staff,” with tree and solar-panel covered roofs, glass walls that maximise views of the surrounding topography, and a 700-tree olive grove encircling the structure. In addition, the facility will employ 700 more employees.
“When you have a huge audience, like we do, you also have a large duty,” Brunschwig explains. “It’s critical that we promote sustainability, and one component of that is job creation and how we sustain the local community.”
When the subject of fur comes up, the concept of caring for people and providing jobs comes up again. Fur has always been an important part of the Fendi story, and the company is still devoted to using it. It appears to be a “contentious” topic. “Not for me,” Brunschwig snaps back.
“We are material masters. It all boils down to what the buyer desires. It’s all about liberty. If they wish to buy fur, we can accommodate them. We can also provide our skills in a different material if customers require it.
For example, we have begun to grow our shearling line. People who prefer shearling to mink are allowed to do so. It is done by the same artisans who are precious to us and whom we wish to safeguard. Yes, we must preserve animals, but we must also protect people.”
Fendi’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances was arguably best demonstrated in May, when the firm collaborated with fellow Italian fashion house Versace to launch the Fendace collection. Donatella Versace remade Fendi via her vision, while Jones and Silvia contributed their perspectives to the Versace realm in a fun-filled reversal of roles. “It was quite spontaneous,” Brunschwig adds. “Because there was no strategy, it worked. It was basically a question of Donatella, Kim and Silvia meeting and having a lovely evening together and just suggesting during dinner, why don’t we try this? Let’s switch places. It was very genuine. They did it from the bottom of their hearts.” After all, newcomers are always welcome in the Fendi family.
Fendi is a fashion name associated with luxury. The Italian label is recognised for its daring handbags manufactured with meticulous precision, as well as its characteristic double “F” emblem.
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