British Vogue - 11.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1
“For us, it wasn’t work,” she says, back
in Rome. “I learned from him that the
minute you start thinking, ‘I have to
work,’ it becomes heavy and boring.
It was a dialogue more than anything:
sending images, sending presents.”
Contrary to Lagerfeld’s work in Paris
at Chanel, their collaboration was always
long-distance. “He was at Chanel every
day, so he could follow every detail.
Here, he would come and go, and the
work had to go on when he wasn’t here.”
It gives you an idea of the position in
which Silvia now finds herself at
Fendi: new, but not so different. She
says she still sees Karl in Virginie Viard’s
collections for Chanel. “Virginie and I,
we have so much respect for Karl that
the transition cannot be fast. The new
has to arrive in a respectful way. We
are who we are thanks to this man, so
a total detachment from Karl will never
happen. When you look at Valentino,
yes, it’s Pierpaolo [Piccioli], but I see
the Valentino attitude. Look at Dior,
you see Dior. How can you not respect
the story of a brand? Otherwise, do your
own brand. Karl will always be here.”
They’re perhaps paradoxical words
coming from someone whose surname
is Fendi – even if Silvia prefers to go by
Venturini – but she’s never known her
family business without Karl. In 1992,
he asked her to join him in a designer
duo that soon unveiled her fashion
genes. Four years on, she designed the
Baguette (“something that we never
admitted was ‘me’... But yes,” she
laughs) and, in 2000, she became
menswear director of Fendi. With
superior ease, her men’s collections fuse
Fendi’s furry savoir faire with the
normcore streetwear worshipped by the
digital generations. In 2009, she granted
millennial whisperers Kanye West and
Virgil Abloh internships at Fendi. They
didn’t serve her coffee, “but sometimes
they’d say, ‘Can we leave at six? We have
a concert in Las Vegas. We’ll come back
tomorrow, on time.’ I’d go, ‘But how
would you get there?’ ‘We have a private
plane.’ It was a bizarre internship but
they were very committed.”
So with the times is Silvia that she
featured West’s wife and her Kardashian-
Jenner family in a Fendi campaign
last year; a controversial move for a
high-brow heritage house. “I love them.
They’re good friends, nice people, we
share values.” Lagerfeld, of course, was

one of the first designers to embrace
Kendall Jenner, a testament to his
anti-snobbery. “To be frozen in rules is
the most boring thing in the world.
I never say no to anything, otherwise a
hundred-year-old company becomes
a mammoth,” Silvia says. “It’s something
I learned from Karl: always to explore.
He understood what was happening
in the moment.”
In an era when fur – the root of Fendi

  • is being dropped by houses including
    Prada and Gucci, that attitude is useful.
    “These important issues should not
    become marketing tools to attract young
    customers. I don’t see the difference
    between fur, leather, crocodile and
    python. What’s the alternative? You’re
    still destroying the planet by using
    synthetics.” Instead, Fendi is now
    increasing its use of upcycled fur
    and developing natural fur-imitation
    materials. Those techniques were
    present in July’s couture collection,
    which saw a translucent coat with
    mink panels giving the illusion of
    transparent fur, one of Lagerfeld’s life-
    long ambitions for Fendi’s ateliers.
    When he’d come to Rome he was like
    a tornado. “‘This, this, this, this!’
    Sometimes you’d go away thinking,
    ‘How are we going to link this?’ It wasn’t
    easy but it was fascinating,” Silvia recalls.
    Lagerfeld could be uncompromising.
    “I knew him my whole life and he was
    not easy,” she smiles. “But we never had
    fights. There were difficult moments
    when we went through changes; when
    we decided to sell the company and
    we didn’t know who was going to buy
    it. I was in the middle because I was
    part of the family but I also felt like
    I belonged to him.”
    Yet, he was unanimously beloved at
    Fendi. Here, he was always just “Karl”:
    contrary to his “Monsieur Lagerfeld”
    at Chanel in Paris. “I never heard him
    scream at anyone in all those years.
    Never once. He was very generous,
    with others more than himself. He
    was very concentrated on his work,
    especially after Jacques died,” Silvia
    says, referring to De Bascher, Karl’s
    partner of 18 years, who died in 1989.
    Was Karl happy? “Yes, I really think
    he was. I think he had a beautiful life.
    The people who worked with him were
    his family. He achieved what he
    wanted. I think he found in his work
    his way of being happy.” n

Clockwise from above: Sam McKnight
worked on the hair for the show.
Entitled The Dawn of Romanity, the
models walked 54 looks – one for
each year that Lagerfeld spent with
Fendi – down a makeshift runway
in the Roman Forum, the uplit arches
of the Colosseum behind


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