We all now know the surprise choice of designer to bring a new spirit to the Italian house of Fendi. London-born Kim Jones has been chosen to partner with Silvia Venturini Fendi. And just like Karl Lagerfeld, who was creative director at Fendi for 55 years and also designed for Chanel, Kim Jones will work for two houses: Fendi and Dior Homme.
Venturini Fendi did herself proud in her final show, which was live streamed on 23 September, before she handed womenswear over to Jones. “This collection is born from reflection, time and a lot of love. It is my expression of home, family and all things we each hold dear to us—values passed down from generation to generation, like precious linens,” Venturini Fendi shares with me.
“I am very happy to have Kim joining the Fendi family,” she adds, herself a third-generation descendant of the Italian couple who founded the fur and leather business in Rome nearly a century ago. “My warmest welcome to Kim, to whom I am bound by deep respect and friendship,” she says. “I am looking forward to taking the Fendi universe to the next level with him.”
As a daughter of one of the Fendi founders’ five children, who took over from their parents, Venturini Fendi grew up playing with fabrics from the age of five. With her mother Anna and her business-minded, music-loving aunt, Carla, she joined the family clan with Lagerfeld as her guide.
“We can say that with Fendi, there was a special bond between Karl and my family, but also a great attachment to the maison itself,” Venturini Fendi says. “It has been the longest relationship in the history of fashion, a love story of 55 years. From the beginning, Karl felt like a member of our family—the one brother among all the sisters,” she continues. “Nobody realised how precise Karl was in his work. In the early days, he would arrive with a book full of drawings. More recently, he would send it digitally.”
I remember Carla Fendi telling me that when Lagerfeld left his desk, she would run to the rubbish bin and rescue his screwed-up drawings. After he passed away in February 2019, Venturini Fendi took over the brand, although her real enthusiasm has not just been her responsibility for the house’s male fashion, but also for her original and inventive handbags. The baguette bag—named for the shape of the French breadstick—is still a worldwide bestseller.
Venturini Fendi’s first collection without Lagerfeld, in September 2019, was a whimsical look at summer dressing, evoking a freshness from her addiction to gardening. The next show focused on a woman’s right to have different shapes and sizes. And a year on from his death, Fendi CEO Serge Brunschwig said not a word about looking for a successor.
A great talent
The surprise announcement about Jones taking on the role of artistic director of Fendi womenswear was made during the Covid-19 lockdown by Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“Kim Jones is a great talent and since joining has continuously proven his ability to adapt to the codes and heritage of the LVMH houses while revisiting them with great modernity and audacity,” Arnault said. “At Fendi, I am convinced that his vision and passion will highly contribute to the success of the women’s collections.” Jones responded enthusiastically to his new double role, saying that “working across two such prestigious houses is a true honour as a designer and to be able to join the house of Fendi—as well as continuing my work at Dior Men’s—is a huge privilege.”
Jones, who will be working on womenswear for the first time, will present his Fendi ready-to-wear collection for the autumn/winter 2021 season during Milan Fashion Week in February 2021. I am interested in his take on womenswear and how Jones will make his stamp on the accessory-led fur brand. Inevitably, it will become more sporty.
Intriguingly, his early studies at Camberwell School of Art were with graphics and photography. He moved to fashion menswear when studying at Central Saint Martins, where he graduated in 2002. His early work involved various brands including Hugo Boss, Topman, Mulberry, Iceberg and Pastelle by Kanye West. It was in 2008, when Jones was picked by British menswear heritage brand Alfred Dunhill, that his career started to take off. By the time he moved to Louis Vuitton menswear in 2011, he was flying high. And the switch to Dior Homme in 2018 confirmed the importance of a designer who could dress David Beckham for Prince Harry’s wedding.
He has already had much success with a pink fluffy cartoon toy for Dior Homme—a collaboration with the artist KAWS, which he launched upon joining the division in 2018. It sold for $7,500 a pop. It complements the Fendi Karlito fur charms, and it is these merchandising skills that surely persuaded LVMH that Jones would be an excellent fit.
It still seems so recent that I was sat by Rome’s Trevi Fountain at sunset in 2016, watching Venturini Fendi take her bow with Lagerfeld, celebrating the German-born designer’s unprecedented half-century at Fendi and the 90th anniversary of the brand. His departure has been compounded by the unprecedented pandemic that is changing lives across the world—and no one in fashion is unaware of the upheaval.
So what can we expect from Jones, whose sister introduced him to the world of fashion when he was 16? Will it be his fascination with modern art in all its forms that will alter the look and feel of the Italian brand? The designer’s skill at Dior has been to meld a luxurious softness with edgy streetwear—at a price. It has been not just 22-foot artist statues, but also a $30,000 robot bag. His collaboration with artists has been hyper-modern, such as street artist KAWS (also known as Brian Donnelly). Jones once told me that when he was not moving with his father around the African continent, he was fascinated by street art as it developed through the 1980s excess.
But the designer is not leaving Dior, so he has to develop a different approach for Fendi—already a sea change because Jones is taking on womenswear for the first time. It looks like a big challenge, and one sure to deliver all the excitement the fashion industry will need in post-Covid times.