Is there anything else like Fendi? What Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi have done with that huge fur ball of luxury and tradition beggars description. Primal barbarism meshes with decadent sophistication, palazzo and gutter fuse in one elusive but alluring package. Credit Rome, as anyone who's seen The Great Beauty, winner of this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, will recognize. "Fendi Roma," read the new labels, as the business places a greater emphasis than ever on its roots. For the new Resort collection, Lagerfeld revisited a motif from 1988 and spread a little "Fendi Roma" graffiti around. It was the most visible expression of a hyper-sporty thread: cropped, rah-rah short, lean, piped, meshed. A bra and trackies combo was paired with a little white mink bomber, with sleeves in a mink mesh. A motocross jacket, banded in racing checks, topped a skirt in perforated black leather that was decorated with discs of orange shearling, like 3-D polka dots. It was a technological feat, for sure, but it was also as playful as a plushie.
That's one of the most appealing things about Fendi. Its artisans are capable of ne plus ultra craftsmanship, but the hand is lighter than ever. Just look at Fendi twenty-five years ago to fully appreciate the evolution. Back then, "capital L" luxury was queen. Now, nothing is sacred, and all the better for it. On Fendi's Fall catwalk, the sprays of fresh orchids pinned to fur were a romantic, surprisingly soulful flourish. Here, the orchids came back as splintered, abstracted, exploded floral motifs, inlaid on fur, embroidered on a mohair tank, or as a ghostly print on pale pink silk organza. The abiding impression was urban energy—a lot of it.
And yet the most striking piece in the collection was the quietest. A strappy shift in navy-trimmed black flared at the back into tiers of pleats. Yes, there was energy in their movement, but it was more the masterful construction that stood out. You mightn't look first at such an outfit, but you'd look longest. So you can add that dress to the list of Rome's enduring fascinations.