To say Delfina Delettrez Fendi has her hands full is an understatement. Dividing her time between home in Rome and her atelier in Paris, the fourth generation member of the Fendi family fashion empire juggles her role as the maison’s artistic director of jewellery with the demands of her own eponymous jewellery brand. The pressure has been greater than ever this year, with her preparing her first Fendi high jewellery collection, which was unveiled during its haute couture presentation in Paris on 6 July.
It was the morning of the Met Gala when we finally spoke, and Delettrez Fendi was in her final fitting for fashion’s biggest night out. It was her first Met, and an emotional occasion given that the theme honoured Karl Lagerfeld, whose 54-year collaboration with Fendi remains one of the longest in fashion history, and who she was close with since childhood. “I wanted to wear Karl,” says Delettrez Fendi, 36. And she did—literally.
The joyfully cartoonish fabric of her beaded gown was from Fendi’s spring/summer 1988 collection—based on a Lagerfeld drawing of himself and his muse Anna Piaggi—while Kim Jones, Fendi’s current artistic director of couture, provided the dress’s silhouette from his spring/summer 2023 collection. A matching Baguette completed the family circle. The latter was a nod to her mother—and date for the night—Silvia Venturini Fendi, artistic director of accessories and menswear, who created the iconic bag in 1997.
Formidable women abound in the Fendi family. The business was established in 1925 by Delettrez Fendi’s great-grandparents, Adele and Edoardo, before passing down to their daughters, Paola, Franca, Carla, Alda and Anna—Delettrez Fendi’s grandmother—in the 1940s. “Fendi has always been an example of independent and strong women in a male-oriented universe, a feminist manifesto almost,” says Delettrez Fendi. Encouraged from an early age to participate in work conversations around the dinner table, Delettrez Fendi grew up immersed in the business but, like her mother before her, hesitated before joining it herself. “I went into the only art that wasn’t touched by Fendi, and that was the jewellery world,” she says. In 2007, she established her own brand, a surrealist, gothic fantasy of bejewelled frogs and skulls that has since evolved into tongue-in-cheek, wearable twists on jewellery classics. Ahead of its time, her brand heralded a new age of women designing jewellery for themselves that was more in line with contemporary fashion, and which rejected the fustiness of traditional fine jewellery.
It was Delettrez Fendi’s talent and innate style that led Jones to ask her to join Fendi alongside him and her mother in 2020. “I was moved, I was flattered. It was a call from an outsider like me,” she says. “Someone who knew me for my work, not a member of my family, or Karl who was like a member of the family.” Indeed she is one of Jones’s muses. Climbing equipment from her last summer holiday inspired fashion and jewellery alike for Fendi spring/summer 2023 couture. Her pearl and crystal carabiner-style earrings combined with the technical fabrics and buckles that punctuated Jones’s ethereal lingerie-meets-red-carpet gowns. “We want our two worlds to be in dialogue. It’s a winning formula for us and for Fendi,” she says. In fact, it was Jones who gave the world its first glimpse of Delettrez Fendi’s upcoming high jewellery collection at the Met Gala.
He wore a striking white-diamond necklace that centred on Delettrez Fendi’s abstract interpretation of the famous double-F monogram, created by Lagerfeld in 1965, which she describes as the “family crest”.
In her initial foray into high jewellery, for Fendi’s resort show in September 2022, a single set featured the monogram in all its angular glory. In Triptych, which comprises 31 pieces, it is “whispered”, the sharp angles replaced by a cursive F, reminiscent of the arches of Rome’s rationalist masterpiece Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. “It becomes a drawing rather than a font, almost like the contours of a woman’s body,” she explains.
This softness is echoed in the palette of yellow and white diamonds and pink spinels. In a nod to Fendi’s famous accessory, baguette diamonds are used throughout, “like a logo within a logo”, says Delettrez Fendi. Finding a balance between tradition and experimentation is a responsibility she takes seriously. “I consider myself a guardian of my family history and of its codes.”
The continuity and openness of that tradition continues today. Delettrez Fendi says she opens her jewellery box for her five-year-old twin sons to play with its precious contents. “They’re like magpies, they like everything that sparkles, and they play with my jewellery like it’s building blocks,” she laughs. Emma, her daughter, now 15, loves acting. Who knows, says Delettrez Fendi, things may once again come full circle, and her daughter will become the fifth generation to join the family business and continue the long association of Fendi with the world of cinema. “She knows at least that she will have an official jeweller,” she says drily. And thus the Fendi family story continues in ever increasing circles.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.