#SuzyCouture Fendi: A Final Tribute To Karl Lagerfeld In The Eternal City

“We wanted to make it beautiful, and upbeat and happy,” said Silvia Venturini Fendi in wonder and awe at the glowing tables for 600 guests, set on the flat top of the Palatine Hill under a crescent moon.

For Rome, this space is the heart and soul of the Eternal City, the centremost of the Seven Hills surrounding it, with the Colosseum at its base. Hence, perhaps, Fendi calling this exceptional presentation “the Dawn of Romanity”.

All the gods were present at the event – a final honour to Karl Lagerfeld, who had joined the group of artistic Fendi women in the 1960s and stayed on as designer for a jaw-dropping 54 years until he passed away at age 85 in February, three days after he had completed his last ready-to-wear collection with Silvia.

The idea of holding a fashion show in this Roman wonderland was not only to present 54 outfits to mark the designer’s fashion years at Fendi. It also underlined the support given to the city by the fashion house, now owned by LVMH. Chairman and CEO Serge Brunschwig talked about LVMH’s current restoration of the Temple of Venus and Rome as an architectural preservation project following work on the famous Trevi Fountain – the last such project taken on by the company three years ago.

“Bringing our couture to Rome is the best way to celebrate Karl Lagerfeld, Fendi and this city,” the executive said, his gentle words later drowned out by a musical performance by Lion Babe.

But the show itself was unmitigatedly classic and gracious. The clothes were ethereal and light, but there was no sense that the chosen set was overwhelming. Rather, there was a scenic beauty in fur, worn old-school style as a long drape, or as patterns on feather-light fur that suggested an Italian mosaic floor.

The show started at nightfall as the sky turned deep blue, the better to serve as a background to the light, leggy outfits that followed, with mesh material revealing glimpses of thigh, while more substantial robes or gowns were woven into carpets of pattern.

The straight-fringed, bobbed wigs gave some of the models a Space Age look. But that was fine too, reflecting Karl’s angular, elongated outfits in which fur and whiskery feathers seemed to compete as marble-patterned decoration.

The evening dresses that gave a fresh grandeur to the final quarter of the collection underscored the excellence of Italian workmanship and also the fact that these clothes were entirely woman to woman.

Left unsaid was any discussion or commentary on fur itself, in an era when many people are aggressively against the entire concept of what they see as tainted beauty.

Rome, as they say, was not built in a day. But this exceptional collection could inspire a softer, more feminine Fendi collection that turns its back, sweetly and gently, on the Lagerfeld half-century. Or that maybe adds new upon old – just like Rome’s layers of heritage.