Thirty-one stories above street level, Silvia Venturini Fendi created her laboratory of menswear. Two snaking lines of mannequins in her men's collection embodied, according to the designer, cloning and duplication; evolution with variation. "This is to me a place that talks about the future," she said. "The idea is that the clothes—they're not about decoration, they're about needs and function. Everything has a purpose, an answer to a function."

It was hard to see the function that a damier-patterned T-shirt and matching shorts in stitched eelskin answered. They seemed purely luxe for luxe's sake. Does a man need an eel? "Yes, you need," Fendi insisted, "because you need to be connected to your primitive roots."

So the way to the future is through the past; so the route to function goes via the luxe. Fendi doubled rules on rules in her cosmology of menswear. The clothes themselves? Unavoidably, symptomatically odd. There are blousy pleated shorts in crocodile on one hand and a kind of four-piece suit of silk nylon—coat, shirt, jacket, and shorts—on the other. Damier check showed up not only among the eels but also as a woven jacquard and on a printed cotton suit where it appeared in an "exploded" version: beginning tight and checkerboardish, ending loose and diffuse. The key colors are teal, chocolate, and blue; the key bags small, slightly purselike cubes.

Fendi herself is cheerfully direct about even the odder bits of her apocalyptic visions. (Why not? She's often right. Her shorts are shorter than they've been in the past, she said, because the future will be about heat. And this just moments after admitting she'd cut her own hair.) She's so to the point that it becomes churlish to insist on evaluating the clothes by standards other than hers. Better simply to appreciate that, in an obscure tower of the empire It-bags built, a mad scientist is hard at work, or at play.