Anyone who has ever made a statement based upon a well-known stereotype and had it blow up in their face likely understands how Karl Lagerfeld is feeling about the spring/summer collection for Fendi. Almost any other season, using the Caribbean Islands as a theme would be a pretty safe move. For many people, the islands are synonymous with fun, sand, and sensuality, the very things one wants in a clothing line. So, Karl went all in on the concept, creating an entire spring line that not only used the Caribbean for a color scheme, but for more illustrative concepts such as waves and palm leaves. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Sure, right up until those same islands get slammed with back-to-back hurricanes, leaving, in some places, as much as 90 percent of the island destroyed. The only guests the Caribbean needs at the moment are relief workers who can help the people there begin to get back on their feet and begin to rebuild. Many places, especially on the smaller islands, are still without power or running water. The recovery effort across the Caribbean is going to take months, likely years, before they get back to the happy place we associate with the islands.
All of which goes to make the theme for this season’s Fendi collection just a bit awkward. Not that Lagerfeld could have done anything about it. With the latest hurricane hitting the area just two days before the show, there was no way anyone could pull the collection and change the theme. They kept everything as planned and played off the memories many people have of the islands with no mention of the current state of disaster across the islands nor their need for assistance.
What Lagerfeld hopes we remember are the beaches and the sun and the mixture of colors and fragrances inherent to the islands. Especially blue. While there was plenty of seafoam green and the deep red/orange of a receding sunset, blue was the dominant color, right down to it being sprayed as a temporary color on models’ hair. It’s a calm, relaxing color palette that should be extremely attractive for spring. The near-pastel shades are calming and invoke pleasant thoughts of long days on the beach with a fruity drink in hand, a place where the only need for an umbrella is the paper kind in one’s drink.
The ensembles are not quite beachwear. Most are far too expensive to risk getting marred by wet sand. They do a good job of invoking that spirit, however, with gauzy, semi-transparent materials that flutter with the slightest breeze and deep plunges and side cutouts that infer swimwear without running the risk of actually getting wet. A nearly constant use of stripes holds the collection together. Despite the striped mesh socks that are likely to be a hit in stores, many of the looks carry a barefoot-in-the-sand feel, assuming the sand isn’t littered with storm debris. The aesthetic brings to mind the lazier days of the Caribbean, the ones where fears and worries pass you by and one is never out of earshot of a local band playing metal drums.
Shoulders get a lot of treatment as well. Lagerfeld through in just about every bare-shouldered silhouette that he’s ever seen. Most worked well with the collection, though there were a few that were surprisingly heavy and felt counterintuitive to the overall feel of the collection.
What didn’t work as well was the fur. Yes, we understand that fur is a staple product in the Fendy collection. Still, there is absolutely no need for a full-length fur coat anywhere in a spring/summer collection and especially themed on the always-warm Caribbean. Anyone who buys one of these coats and wears it in public is just asking to be attacked by PETA and quite likely shamed by one’s social circle. While I don’t think Fendi will ever completely give up fur as long as the Fendi family retains some sense of control, they could at least move to faux alternatives and try to not be quite so ostentatious about the whole thing.
The non-fur pieces, which is the greater majority of the collection, offers plenty of other warm-weather options. One can largely choose the silhouettes that work best for them and put together a style that is comfortable and attractive. Take a look:
Anyone planning on making purchases from this collection might want to go ahead and let their hair stylist know about the need for blue hair to go along with it. Sure, the dye is temporary, but it definitely adds a little extra to the styles as they’re making their way down the catwalk.
In Rome, where Fendi is headquartered, the label has a reputation for being very generous. Fendi paid the full cost for the restoration of the Trevi fountain and just earlier this month announced plans for the Caravaggio Research Institute. While sales haven’t exactly been ecstatic, the house doesn’t have a problem sharing its corporate wealth.
So, perhaps, given that this collection is so heavily related to the Caribbean and plays off memories of good times there, the label might ease a little bit of the social awkwardness by forwarding at least a portion of the proceeds from this collection to disaster relief and rebuilding in the islands. Or perhaps those who plan on buying from this collection could make a donation themselves. After all, if one is paying upward of $3,000 or more for an ensemble, one likely has enough discretionary funds to help restore the islands to the fun vacation spots we all remember. Just a suggestion.
This isn’t Fendi’s strongest collection ever, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been saying that for at least five years now. The label has settled into a nice mediocrity that isn’t likely to change as long as Lagerfeld is doing most the designing. The collections are nice enough, but we’re not seeing anything creatively astonishing. I’m not sure Lagerfeld has an astonishing collection in him anymore. He shuffles when he walks out to take a bow now. I would hope the label keeps some names in a folder for when the inevitable day arrives that they need someone new at the design helm.
In the meantime, let us enjoy our memories of the Caribbean islands before they were swamped by back-to-back hurricanes. One can look good, be comfortable, and also be reminded to help those in need.