"I just couldn't resist," Silvia Venturini Fendi said when she was asked about the wedge-heeled shoes in the latest Fendi collection for men. What she meant was that she's partial to perversity. In exactly the same way, she dedicated a collection from Fendi, a house whose name is a byword for luxury, to poverty, or at least the ingenuity that comes from people who must make the most of the little they have. So she started with "poor" materials (actually, the simplest, most natural fabrics) and decorated them with plain ideas like cotton topstitching. What looked like a tufty Fendi fur jacket was really an artful mélange of leather and cotton. And a quilted blouson and waistcoat looked like Chinese peasantwear—if you think about it, adapting the idea of artisanal, traditional garments is where Fendi itself began. A knit tabard, for example, was a new version of the waistcoat. And the collarless shirts paired with the pants with the slightly dropped crotch could have been Sunday best for workers from another time and place.

Exactly when and where that might be didn't particularly interest Silvia, but her impressionistic approach actually produced clothes with a certain shabby dignity. (Okay, the snakeskin jacket was a little more rock star than that.) And there is always a guiding intelligence in this collection that gets you thinking about what kind of thoughtful type might wear these outfits.