The Man Who Mapped Fendi’s DNA Is Remembered in a Tender Tribute Show

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Did Karl Lagerfeld know how close he was to the end? As sick as he was, he had to have had an inkling. This unbearably sad idea – the knowledge of one’s own impending exit – is also what made Fendi’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection its most beautiful. Embedded in the show is the achingly tender idea that Lagerfeld knowingly designed it to be his last. You saw him in everything that walked the runway. From the exaggerated bows that were his design signature and the tall collars that he personally wore to the youthful streetwear elements that proved his sensibilities were always pointed toward the future, it was impossible not to read too much into every look.

Lagerfeld had been designing at Fendi for five decades, since 1965. Although it was a family-owned luxury company known for its high-quality furs, it was the German-born Kaiser who mapped its DNA. The house he developed over the years is outstanding. Faultless, even. 

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

At Fendi, you’ll notice a tension between contrasts: flow and structure, opaque and sheer, sedate and sunny. More specifically, for Fall/Winter 2019, it meant handsome neutrals punched up with neon teal and yellow, rigid pagoda shoulders and translucent sleeves, stiff leathers softened with a galaxy of perforations,  precision tailoring fused with the louche attitude of streetwear, and diaphanous dresses mixed with thick furs. Occasionally, a flourish of double-F logos appeared. “Karligraphy” it was called, and it had been created by the man himself in 1981.

The idea that the show must go on isn’t an insult to his memory, but rather, a rallying cry that echoes the spirit of the man himself.

It was all really beautiful, really “now”, in the way only Lagerfeld can produce. But, it was also difficult to ignore the funereal qualities of Fendi’s line-up of all-black looks. Adwoa Aboah, in particular wore a mourning dress that was so somber, it practically emoted.

Backstage, a flood of tears threatened to wash away the joy of another fantastic show, another job well-done. Silvia Venturini Fendi, the models who worked with Lagerfeld, and other members of the Fendi inner-circle couldn’t hold back the grief. It was too fresh, too soon, and yet, fashion stops for no one. No one knew this better than Karl Lagerfeld, which is why the idea that the show must go on isn’t an insult to his memory, but rather, a rallying cry that echoes the spirit of the man himself.

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