British Vogue - 11.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

hen Silvia Venturini
Fendi stepped on to the
runway after her a/w ’19
ready-to-wear show in
February, it marked the first time that
she’d taken the bow without Karl
Lagerfeld by her side. Three days before,
he had called her from his hospital bed
in Paris. “He still wanted to come to
Milan. He was having ideas, asking about
the collection, sending pictures, he had
his iPad. I said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll send
you everything. You’ll see everything.’
He said, ‘Yes, because the doctors, they
don’t want me to fly,’” she recalls. Karl
died the next morning, following a stoic
battle with pancreatic cancer. He had
served at Fendi for 54 years.
In July, Silvia showed the last
collection they had been working on:
Fendi Haute Couture autumn 2019.
Staged on the Palatine Hill in Rome – a
location chosen by Lagerfeld, who had
also given her a book on the Viennese
Secession movement for inspiration – it
was the first women’s collection that
Silvia, 58, had designed by herself.
Backdropped by the Colosseum, its
Secessionist geometric shapes were
interpreted through mind-boggling
prints and intarsias. Ballgown
silhouettes from Karl’s archive were

reborn in electric fabrics, slithering and
glistening with intricacy. It was heritage
craftsmanship in hyper-modernity –
the way Lagerfeld liked it – followed
by a spectacular moonlit banquet fit for
a Roman emperor.
Overlooking Rome from her Civiltà
Italiana headquarters a week on, Silvia
is designing September’s ready-to-wear
collection. It prompts the inevitable
question of succession. “I know what his
thoughts were. He never said it explicitly,
but I knew there were people he liked
more and people he liked less. It’s very
clear in my mind,” she says. “He wouldn’t
want someone to arrive and do a total
makeover.” Would she like to keep taking
the bow on her own? “Yes, of course;
alone, because you can’t do it with a
hundred people. I represent them. But
this decision is not on my desk.”
LVMH bought Fendi in 2001.
“What I’ve learned is that you have to
win your battle on the field. Let’s say that
the men’s show was very good: one star.
And the couture was good: two stars,”
she smiles, backed up by rave reviews
and reports of great sales. “September
is going to be ‘Fendi’ but, because I’m a
woman, it will also be different. I’m not
a clone of Karl Lagerfeld.”
Lagerfeld was hired by Silvia’s mother
and aunts in 1965 to modernise the
family business. She was five when she
first met him, and spent her teenage years
watching him at work whenever he came
to Rome. At his memorial at Paris’s
Grand Palais in June, she told a story of
how the young Karl – already a kaiser in
the making – was hours late for his job
interview, a habit he never overcame.
“Since he died, I sometimes find myself
wondering if he’s still just late,” she
confessed, bringing the audience to tears.

Clockwise from above:
Silvia Venturini Fendi,
who hosted an alfresco
candlelit dinner on
Rome’s Palatine Hill
following Fendi’s
first couture show
without Karl Lagerfeld.
Catherine Zeta-Jones,
above right, with
Diego Della Valle and
Giovanna Belloni;
and Candice Swanepoel
and Natasha Poly,
below right, were
among the guests


11-19-WellAngelo.indd 224 03/09/2019 14:50

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