The first outfit in Fendi’s latest luxury menswear line-up was showcased on Saturday in a music video-style film streamed from a digital-only Milan fashion week. It starred the padded olive silk inner lining of a coat – “the softest part”, said Silvia Fendi – with the smart, structured top layer removed.
“This is therapeutic fashion,” explained Fendi, the men’s and accessories creative director of the brand founded by her grandparents 96 years ago, speaking via Zoom from her Milan studio. “It’s impossible to talk about fashion and not to talk about what’s happening in the world right now. It changes the clothes and it changes the way they are presented.”
When Italian lockdown ruled out a live audience, Fendi pivoted to a snappy six-minute presentation to hold attention online. “With a digital show, you are thinking about someone who is maybe watching it on their phone while eating lunch,” said Fendi. Cameras cut speedily between models as they stride through alleyways of strobing neon lights, with a dancefloor-meets-arthouse soundtrack keeping energy levels high.
A fashion industry hanging on by its fingernails after an annus horribilis now faces the prospect that 2021 may be no less disrupted than 2020. Until last February, Fendi was squeezing 1,400 guests into at her shows. In September, she managed a scaled-back show, with the audience cut by over 90% to just 130 guests, including the Normal People actor Paul Mescal. Now the audience is zero. Hopes of a return to something closer to normality in early 2021 have been dashed.
The current catwalk season is set to be pared back even further. Last week, London fashion week announced that it too will be an entirely digital event.
There are few suits at Fendi this season, because “men don’t need them so much now”. Instead, there are dressing-gown style coats, an “outdoor pyjama” two-piece, and waterproof boots with a removable soft lining “which you keep on as slippers when you come inside I thought that would be something nice to have now,” said Fendi.
Fendi thinks her industry has learned that “maybe it isn’t necessary to take so many flights”, but she believes the catwalk show will return, as “the most interesting way to show clothes. Fashion makes so much more sense when you put it in that context of human togetherness”.