MILAN – Milan Fashion Week ended with official confirmation of what could be the biggest trend in the fashion world right now – not bangs (although there are plenty of them) or bracelets biceps (ditto) or even bikini tops (still strong), but more like power mash-ups.
Introducing Fendace, aka Fendi by Versace, or Versace by Fendi, the pre-spring 2022 pop-up collections created by Kim Jones, artistic director of Fendi womenswear and Silvia Venturini Fendi, Fendi menswear designer, and Donatella Versace from Versace, in which the designers tried their hand at each other’s home and then showed the results on the runway. The name may have been created for fun, but it’s no joke.
“This is a first in the history of fashion,” Ms. Versace said, with some hyperbole, in a press release. She described the experience as “us swapping roles”.
Think of it as a collaboration raised to the nth degree (but don’t dare call it collaboration, because it was so 2019). Or the opposite of conscious decoupling, just the short-term style version. It’s when two brands in the same fashion category decide that, rather than competing, they will start playing with each other. Express and with permission.
Gucci pitched the idea in April when its designer, Alessandro Michele, “hacked” its sister brand Balenciaga (see, no “collaboration”) for the main Gucci collection; Balenciaga returned the favor in June. Then Jean Paul Gaultier, the brand not the man, announced that after Mr. Gaultier’s retirement, each fashion show would be created by a different guest designer interpreting the brand’s signatures: in July, it was Chitose Abe from Sacai; the next one will be Glenn Martens of Y / Project and Diesel. Ms Abe also teamed up with Fendi’s Mr Jones on his other gig, as artistic director of Dior Men’s, to create a capsule collection for men in June.
Unlike projects formerly known as collaborations, which tended to feature brands from different parts of the fashion world (haute couture and mass market names; haute couture and streetwear; haute couture and outdoor recreation ) and that worked because the match had such a bad -that’s-cool vibe, it’s a meeting of equals. Designed to probe the legacy and signatures of each, to better project them in a whole new light.
After all, it’s getting harder and harder to make these partnerships stand out, now that virtually all influencers have a collaboration and live in a collaborative house. You have to keep pushing the concept.
And in theory, Versace and Fendi took the idea and raised one: to unveil their swap-a-doodle at the last minute (although it’s been in the works since around February) on a supposedly secret show (except that the news had leaked quite widely the week before) and not as two brands in the same luxury team like Gucci and Balenciaga, both owned by Kering, but two brands in completely different conglomerates (Capri Holdings for Versace and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for Dior).
So funny! So cross pollination! So inside the fashion nod, given that it was rumored that Mr. Jones would get an official appointment as Ms. Versace’s heir in 2017, before he landed his job at Dior and that she decides to stay in charge a little longer.
And, in the end, so hard to tell the difference. It was even pretty hard to tell the difference between that and the Versace show earlier in the week.
Fendace’s biggest surprise was how unsurprising it was – and how overwhelming the Versace aesthetic was. Maybe there was a little more tailoring in the Versace by Fendi section, spliced and inlaid with scarf prints; a little more attention to craftsmanship, especially in a rococo fan print strapless column mini dress encrusted with embroidery. But essentially, Fendi’s Versace looked very Versace – and Versace’s Fendi also looked very Versace. Although with more “F” logos.
This was, in part, because there are so many identifiable tropes associated with the house founded by Gianni: not just symbols like Greek key prints and baroque curves, but safety pins and chain mail. , black and gold, gender and stylus dominance (also hair, witness the Donatella wigs in the Fendi by Versace section). Whereas, if you scour the mind of the beehive in search of Fendi semiology, you mostly get a letter of the alphabet. Some complementary browns, two-tone. And fur, of course, which Versace has officially given up on.
Plus, both parties adore an original model: Shalom Harlow, Amber Valletta and Kate Moss closed the Versace by Fendi section; Naomi Campbell, the Fendi of Versace. Kristen McMenamy and Karen Elson have also made appearances, as have others.
In order for the collaborations – or, to be more precise, the “celebration of Italian fashion and an upheaval of the established order of things” described in the Fendace press release – to reach the level of greatness, there has to be a tension, rather than just the comfort, involved; a need for negotiation between opposing aesthetics which gives rise to a new way of seeing, pushing designers out of their comfort zone.
What makes these couples exciting is the meeting of two otherwise antithetical minds and stories, a fabric tug of war that creates a chimera so new that it could potentially become a myth.
Otherwise, it’s just mutual appreciation and marketing. Or a job audition.