An exhibition of rare books and manuscripts, Fendi’s Couture Show was an ode to revolutionary literary ideas.
Kim Jones, for his debut Fendi collection, draws on the classic British sensibility of the Bloomsbury Group while paying homage to the history of the Roman Maison. The Bloomsbury Group, a group of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artist professed many liberal ideas.
The relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West sits at the heart of the collection – both books, and Fendi Couture. Jones’ early experiences have since evolved into a fixation with the creative set, whose aesthetics and philosophies are reflected within his debut collection for Fendi Couture. The handcrafted magic of these spellbinding volumes continues to inspire today.
Adopting the time-travelling, binary-blurring novel as a central motif, temporalities are warped while exquisite femininity and masculine androgyny appear as fluid choices rather than innate realities.
Virginia Woolf’s Orlando’s literary conceits are directly interspersed throughout the collection: sometimes in the form of metal-bound book clutches sometimes lines from the text inscribed into Mother of Pearl minaudières or leather boots. Extracts from letters written between Virginia and Vita during their decades-long courtship are read aloud by friends and family of Fendi throughout the Max Richter composition that
scores the show.
Motifs discovered at Charleston farmhouse–the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury set, located only a short distance from where Jones spent much of his childhood – are revived and recontextualised through ornately beaded boots and hand-painted heels. The Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant frescoes which decorate its walls adapted into embroidered embellishments on gowns.
Visible in woven jacquards and on silken gowns; through intarsia furs and hand-beaded tailoring, marbles become a key component in the collection’s visual language. The 19 Victorian, baroque style looks are injected with freedom, pride and a defiance of the bourgeois. Gowns, while being delicately embroidered, have a sense of power and confidence. Sequinned or pearl-encrusted overlays are tantalizing. Organzas shine with gracefulness. Clutches are embroidered with pearls, graced with fringes. Hair ornaments and jewellery are vintage, wistful, dramatic. Not forgetting the legend of Karl Lagerfeld, Karligraphy monograms taken from Mr Lagerfeld’s final collection are beaded onto boots.
“I like how this family of people–and particularly these two pioneering sisters [Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell]–moved things forward,” notes Mr Jones. “I admire the way that they lived their lives, the freedom that they created for themselves and the art that they left behind for the world.”