Accompanied by an exhibition of rare books and manuscripts, the show was an ode to revolutionary ideas projected much simply
January 28, 2021: The Bloomsbury Group, a group of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists, created in the beginning of the 20th century, heralded ideas and thoughts that were considered revolutionary by many. Among the many liberal ideas that they professed, there was a love story that practiced what the group preached. That of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
Reflecting on this transcendent romance and timeless creativity, for his debut Fendi collection, Kim Jones draws on the renegade British sensibility of the Bloomsbury Group while paying homage to the history of the Roman maison.
For Fendi Couture Spring / Summer 2021, Mr. Jones takes cues from Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s literary masterpiece, which is often considered as “the longest and the most charming love letter in history” to Vita Sackville-West. Adopting the time-travelling, binary-blurring novel as a central motif, temporalities are warped while exquisite femininity and masculine androgyny appear as fluid choices.
Orlando’s literary conceits are directly interspersed throughout the collection: sometimes in the form of metal-bound book clutches, sometimes lines from the text inscribed into Mother of Pearl minaudières or leather boots.
Extracts from letters written between Virginia and Vita during their decades-long courtship are read aloud by friends and family of Fendi throughout the Max Richter composition that scores the show.
Motifs discovered at Charleston farmhouse–the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury set, located only a short distance from where Mr. Jones spent much of his childhood – are revived and recontextualised through ornately beaded boots and hand-painted heels; the Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant frescoes which decorate its walls adapted into embroidered embellishments on gowns.
“I like how this family of people–and particularly these two pioneering sisters [Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell]–moved things forward,” notes Mr. Jones. “I admire the way that they lived their lives, the freedom that they created for themselves and the art that they left behind for the world.”
The hand-printed, marble-bound books published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf for Hogarth Press – displayed at the show’s accompanying literary exhibition – offer a seamless segue into classical Italian aesthetics. Mirroring the marble palette of Rome’s Galleria Borghese, whose Bernini sculptures inform the dramatic deshabillé drapery found in the collection, they showcase the harmony between the two movements (so fascinated was Vanessa Bell by Italian Classicism that she would paint in the Borghese gardens, or reprise Old Masters to hang on the walls of Charleston).
Visible in woven jacquards and on silken gowns; through intarsia furs and hand-beaded tailoring, marbles become a key component in the collection’s visual language.
The 19 Victorian, baroque style looks are injected with freedom, pride and a defiance of the bourgeois. Gowns, while being delicately embroidered, have a sense of power and confidence. Sequinned or pearl-encrusted overlays are tantalizing. Organzas shine with gracefulness. Clutches are embroidered with pearls, graced with fringes. Hair ornaments and jewellery are vintage, wistful, dramatic.
Not forgetting the legend of Karl Lagerfeld, Karligraphy monograms taken from Mr. Lagerfeld’s final collection are beaded onto boots.