August 31 2014

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Silvia Venturini Fendi: The Original Mother Monster


Silvia and Maria

The house of Fendi has long held close ties to the world of design. While everyone else was (and is) collaborating with artists (this year’s Art Basel brings Ryan McGinley for Calvin Klein and Visionaire for Gap, to name just a couple), Fendi was focusing on its own cross-pollination. Silvia Venturini Fendi, daughter of Anna Fendi and mother of Delfina, has been at the forefront of the house’s push toward contemporary design since founding Fendi Casa in 1997—applying the brand’s playful, irreverent aesthetic to specially commissioned projects with forward-thinking designers, including Aranda/Lasch, Beta Tank, and Toan Nguyen. This week, Fendi Casa is introducing a new capsule collection of steel- and fur-based items with famed Paris furniture designer Maria Pergay. We sat down with Venturini Fendi at the pool by The Standard Spa to discuss her work with Pergay, how Fendi Casa fits into the house’s larger vision, and why Karl Lagerfeld never—and always—shocks.

On the fashion front, how do you and Karl Lagerfeld keep the house of Fendi’s designs fresh?
We are always the same. Karl has been working with Fendi since forever…from ’65. Me, I was born at Fendi, so we are always the same people. But we have finally set up a structure thanks to the LVMH group entering in 2000, and we went through many, many changes. And today we are ready to go like a lightning bolt to what we really want and to what Fendi really is. We have a very good energy at the moment at Fendi. We are very free in what we do—and this you can see. Our shows and our collections are concentrated on what Fendi has been doing and representing in the fashion world: quality, tradition, and heavy, heavy experimentation. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. That’s something that I think we really have in common with Maria Pergay. It’s this lightness in serious things.

Has working with Karl changed over the years?
I can say no. Every time is like the first time. You know, Karl will surprise you. He’s not predictable at all. And every time, when he arrives [in Rome from Paris], there’s the same expectation and energy. He has to say, “Oh! How did you do that? It’s what I really wanted to achieve and you made it!” Karl is one of the most intelligent people that I’ve ever met in my life. And he gets bored very easily. If he sees something that he’s already seen, he’s not attracted at all. So every time, you have to submit something new—like new techniques, new materials, and new ways of doing the same thing, like fur, for instance. Every time, we really want it to morph into something else.

Delfina has also become more and more involved.
Yes! Now she’s involved in Fendi. I’m very happy because she’s doing the fashion jewelry. I’m very proud. The story continues. Karl is very happy, and they get along very well. I like her crazy earrings with the feathers, which are in reality fox fur. So light and so beautiful. So we’ll see what she comes up with for the next show. She combines her vision with Fendi’s vision in a very balanced way.

Everyone’s been talking about those Monster bags and fur Buggie charms…
Yeah! They sold out everywhere. The Monsters, really they represent our DNA. In the sixties—[during the time of] my mother and her sisters—fur was something very, very boring, and it was a real status symbol. Men would buy it for women to show that they were rich. The bigger the coat, the bigger the wallet. Really, my mother and her sisters were fighting all that. They wanted to liberate women in the sixties. You couldn’t even drive a car with this heavy fur on, and since it was very, very precious, you had four or five linings to protect the skins. My mother and her sisters took away all of these and treated it like it was a normal fabric. They were cutting things that were so expensive, that nobody could touch. And the little Monsters are really there to say, “Yes, we do fur, but we play with it.” I like them. They make me happy.

Fendi Furniture

Tell us about the collaboration with Maria Pergay. How did it evolve?
I’ve always been fascinated by strong women with strong points of view, and I think that she really is, in a way, a Fendi woman—because she reminds me of the women of my family. In the fifties, when she started her production, she turned steel into something more sensual and feminine. And so, one day when I was at Art Basel, they told me that she was there with her gallery, so I went downstairs to meet her, and I said I was one of her admirers, and one day, maybe she would be open to doing something. And she said, “Yes, yes, yes!” But the first thing that she said was, “You know, I don’t know anything about fashion.” After a few months, we started working on one piece. One piece became several pieces. Four. Maria is the first designer that we are going to produce.

Fendi’s been having this conversation with design for many years, while other people have been focusing more on art.
We really thought from the very beginning that there is a common relationship, and we are closer to design than to art, because design and fashion share the fact that you have to have an aesthetic vision and a creative vision, but also, you have to make something technical and functional. That makes life more challenging sometimes. There is a lot of research that goes into these projects, and all the background work is so interesting. At least to me, this is the best part.

Photos: Courtesy of Fendi