After poking its scrawny neck out of the bags in Fendi’s Fall show in Milan, the bird of paradise became the fierce ruling motif for Resort 2016. It’s not a romantic flower, like the orchid that was Karl Lagerfeld’s previous fleeting fancy at Fendi, but its hard-edged beauty was the perfect expression of the duality that makes this house Italy’s most fascinating. The bird of paradise has points and edges that were nature’s complement to the collection’s architectural severity. (Fendi’s new headquarters in Rome are the inspirational gift that keeps on giving for Lagerfeld and his design team.) It loaned itself to a literal, beautiful print on a silk sundress and a full-skirted smock. Abstracted, it made an angular graphic on a full-skirted, white-collared schoolgirl dress. Printed on the cotton matelassé of a coat or jacket, the bird of paradise was almost an intrecciato weave. And it reproduced strikingly as a mink appliqué on a cashmere top.
“Pleasant aggressivity” was the chord that Lagerfeld wanted to strike, soft but graphic. The bird of paradise went there. Another route was his reinterpretation of denim. Looks tough, feels soft—didn’t we already mention duality? So there were silk dresses printed to look like denim, and shearling (Fendi’s new passion) with a denim look, and jackets and blouses woven from silk with the hardy hand of denim. And there was real denim bonded to the denim-dyed mink of a little reversible jacket. That is, of course, the consummate illusion of Fendi’s fabric technologists. How often can we say it? Nothing is ever what it seems. Hence a jacket woven from leather that looked entirely tweedy. Or a richly patterned coat woven from mink, 29 hours on an antique loom.
Lagerfeld has been at Fendi for 50 years. The company was founded 40 years earlier. That’s a huge weight of time. In one way, it was embodied in a new granito print in a bag or a blouson. Substance. But next up was a sweatshirt with a huge shearling lightbulb attached. Idea!—Fendi’s new motif. That surreal levity permeated the accessories: the new dot.com bag, the micro monster bags (i.e., Lilliputian versions of Fendi classics), the bird-of-paradise high heels. But there is also a real canniness to Fendi, and here it was most evident in a color palette that highlighted ochre, saffron, and army green. The clothing and accessories that borrowed these shades were a subtle counterpoint to the bird-of-paradise extravaganza, but they’ll likely be the pieces that continue to seduce when resorts around the world have folded their tents and stolen back into the night.