Today's Fendi show provided one of the most poignantly incongruous images that this season is likely to offer: a fresh spray of orchids pinned to a wild fur stole belted around Georgia May Jagger's shoulders. A Neanderthal's attempt at flower arranging? Not at all. Karl Lagerfeld was inspired by Billie Holiday's song "Violets for Your Furs," and he'd been thinking about the charming old tradition that dictated a woman's husband or lover would pin her with a floral corsage as she set off cross-country by train. That led to travel being the theme of his new Fendi collection—travel for the sake of travel, the journey being more important than the destination, romantic notions that were reflected in Michel Gaubert's blend of Shostakovich and Philip Glass on the soundtrack. And yet there were sci-fi drones hovering above the audience today, recording the event. The handful of evening-ish outfits at the end of the show looked like star maps printed on stygian velvet the multiverse, the ultimate journey's end. So past and future melded in typical Fendi fashion.
The collection was rather prosaically titled Made in Italy because, said Lagerfeld, the quality of workmanship is so far superior in Italy than anywhere else that it merits a constant reminder. Perhaps that's why the construction of garments seemed more emphatic than usual, especially with the pixel patchworking. And the show opened with fitted dresses in earnest bourgeois colors and shapes that were literally erupting into tufts of fur at their seams. Lagerfeld punned that the effect was a "fur escape" (geddit?). It was irresistibly ridiculous when the shoulder of a sober loden coat-dress exploded in a green-tipped Mohawk.
It may have been the notion of travel by train that inclined one toward thinking of the elegant, elongated lines of the collection as thirties-inflected (it's a decade that is everywhere at the moment anyway—maybe the trumpets of economic recovery haven't been enough to dispel the sense of incipient collapse lurking on society's margins). But Lagerfeld is always fiercely nonliteral, so zippers and athletic mesh dissected the silhouette. When things got too sleek, there was crocodile as armlets or collars and half belts on coats to inject a flavor of the primal. And humor too—Cara Delevingne paraded down the catwalk dangling the latest update of Fendi's Little Monsters: a Bag Boy, a simulacrum of Karl himself, expertly fashioned in fur.
Ultimately, it was impossible to pin the mood to any one time and place, just as Lagerfeld intended. He had a nice term for it: couture universelle.