#SuzyCouture: Fendi Changes its Name – and its Attitude

Imagine a fashion show as a guessing game for the audience. Was that coat woven in fur or in wool? Surely that dress must be animal skin? But actually it’s some kind of shredded knit.

And if you want to ask “What’s in a name?” Fendi has now changed its spots. The show that has been labelled “Fendi Fur” for the past two years on the Paris High Fashion calendar is now called “Fendi Couture”. Karl Lagerfeld stood backstage explaining his own feelings about fur after more than 50 years working with the Fendi family.

“My favourite furs were once sable and ermine, but now you can not even touch them,” he said, as he and Silvia Fendi showed me up close the ingenious clothes they had created.

The duo sent the elegant and streamlined pieces down the runway as a sophisticated puzzle.

Was a shimmering coat put together with sequins – or by working with ultra-light Mongolian lamb? Shearling interspersed with organza and feathers is technically not fur. But wispy, floaty organza was actually edged with fox.

Backstage, surrounded by the Arnault family and executives of LVMH, which owns the Roman Fendi brand, Karl and Silvia pointed to a mood board of pictures of the show, revealing a mash-up of elegant outfits and furry (or maybe not) patches.

It seems like a genius idea to remove Fendi’s name from absolute commitment to fur to the more hazy title of “Couture” – although even that name is also under discussion.

“We changed the name from Fendi Fur because not all customers – and there a lot of them – are looking for fur. We sell so many other things,” said Serge Brunschwig, Fendi’s Chairman and CEO. “Also, Karl wanted to play and mix things.”

The show opened with a coat in such a vivid yellow, blue, and olive that the colours seemed more important than the material, which was described as “ruffled chiffon”. Then came a slender, plain beige coat, most certainly of lush Astrakhan. Except it turned out to be sequins.

The elegance of the dresses made a fine and crafty collection in which texture and technique were major assets, whether or not the clothes were furry or friendly.

If this had been a mediocre collection, the Fendi show might have appeared like a fur company with tails between its legs.

But the ultra-sophisticated designs, with their real modern elegance, made the best of both sides of Fendi: its fur and its fashion.