Fendi’s Dolce Vita – The New York Times


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The Fendi finale, at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

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Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

ROME — It’s hard to hold a newsworthy fashion show these days. Collections have been shown, after all, on the Great Wall of China, on a 9/11 anniversary and in Blenheim Palace in England. Yet Thursday evening in Rome, Fendi managed to add to the canon.

How?

By having models walk on water, of course.

The setting was the Trevi Fountain at sunset, and the occasion was the brand’s 90th anniversary and its second haute fourrure show. Four years ago, Pietro Beccari, then newly appointed chief executive, decided it was in the brand’s best interest to associate itself more intimately with the city of its birth. He added “Roma” to the logo and began a project to sponsor the restoration of the city’s fountains, starting with the one where Anita Ekberg once romped for “La Dolce Vita.” The Trevi initiative was completed in the fall, and 2.6 million euros, or $2.9 million, later, it was payback time.

Still, Mr. Beccari said just before the show, “it was a miracle it happened at all.”

Politics, after all, waits for no fashion season, and this is a time of uncertainty in Italy. Since Fendi’s original offer to help Rome, the city has had no fewer than four leaders, the most recent — from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement — elected just weeks before the show.


Slide Show

Fendi: Fall 2016

CreditValerio Mezzanotti/Nowfashion


“We got the final go-ahead at 1 p.m. the afternoon before,” Mr. Beccari revealed in a dinner toast after the event. But that didn’t stop the brand from emptying the fountain, building a glass catwalk almost 200 feet long, and filling it up again — or persuading the 97 merchants in its immediate vicinity to close early for the day. It was a good thing, because, in a rare example of contextual alchemy, the conjunction of site and subject gave proof positive of the show’s title, “Legends and Fairy Tales.”

As water poured from under Oceanus’s feet, spilling over stone sea horses and Tritons, the first of 46 looks appeared: a baby-blue astrakhan princess coat with jeweled embroidery. It was just the start of an eye-popping visual discourse on the art of the possible, which ranged from gossamer-thin crocheted mohair gowns inset with fur roses or traced with leather castles and creatures inspired by the early 20th-century Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, to evening capes and coats with whole narratives in their wefts.

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Backstage at the Fendi show.

Credit
Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Even for Fendi, a brand that made its name by demonstrating the multitudinous forms of fur, the clothes were astonishing. “Five or 10 years ago, this could not have been done,” Karl Lagerfeld said before the show.

Whether a woman would want to spend enormous amounts of money to wear a fable on her back was almost besides the point (and as for the dresses, the answer is a straightforward “yes”): More relevant was the fact they could be so written.

Also, the question of, if Fendi did this for its 90th anniversary, what would it do for 100? “Wait and see!” Mr. Beccari said. Beyond the legendary, after all, comes the epic.

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