In February of this year three friends caught up over dinner. Nothing particularly unusual about that unless, of course, they happen to be three of the most notable names in Italian (albeit worldwide) fashion. When Silvia Venturini Fendi, Fendi womenswear artistic director Kim Jones and Donatella Versace got together clearly something exciting happened somewhere between entree and main course, because by dessert the friendly rivals had dreamed up a unique, collaborative concept for Pre-Fall 2022. Fendace had been born – the surprising, jovial fashion portmanteau we never knew we needed.
And actually, it was to be distinctly not collaborative. Rather, it was to be a facetious boss-swap of sorts. The creative directors (Kim and Donatella) would design for the other’s house, each producing a unique collection in a never-done-before idea. And the guise was to be kept a secret until its riotous reveal last night. Live from Via Gesù, Versace’s private headquarters, for the finale of Milan fashion week, the atmosphere was palpable even before the big moment. Prior to the show, rumours had been circulating about a possible collaboration, so once attendees realised it would be akin to a supersized fashion-off, the ether became positively intoxicating. Then, from under the loom of a giant Versace Medusa logo, appeared a runway of Kate Moss, Amber Valetta and Naomi Campbell in an are-we-really-seeing-this mirage of muses, parading Kim Jones’ version of a Versace season. It was a hotbed of punked-up streetwear and conspicuous 90s cuts, all splashing a mash-up of the house’s insignias and infamous golden Baroques.
Twenty looks later, the tile turned to reveal the double-F logo, signalling it was time for Donatella’s shake up of the Fendi normale. Taking her knack for no-prisoners-bedazzlement she lathered her cameo-collection in signature Versace prints, many piercing through the well-known Fendi monogram. It was all in good fun, of course. And while this was a send up, of sorts, the double offering caused a surprisingly cohesive blend of the best of what Italian glamour has to offer.
There was Emily Ratajkowski in a gold-laced two-piece decorated with a statement cuff and silk faille headscarf, Gigi Hadid in disco-silver lamé flanked by very-Versace mermaid hair and chinzy clips, Kate Moss in a micro black keyhole dressed draped by a baroque robe and Adut Akech in a printed jacket so metallic-golden it looked positively molten. And while these looks came from both sides of the adventure, stylistically it all came together. Before Jones joined Fendi in 2020, and prior to his tenure at Louis Vuitton and Dior, he’d been tipped to join the house of Versace so, an ongoing closeness to his now-rival house is not surprising. Donatella is also well-known for her support of talented young designers and has used her force in the industry to mentor Jones among others.
You can almost picture that evening back in February, if we can indulge in some fanciful hyperbole. A table set among the ivy-wrapped palings of the Versace alfresco dining wing. A gargantuan spread of Italian cuisine and Kim, Silvia and Dontatella all giggling into their gold-dipped wine goblets. “I would love to design for Versace!” says Kim. “And I Fendi!” spills Donatella. Then Silvia sees the future, in a kind of Freaky Friday swapsies lighting bolt. “Let’s Do It!” she confirms! They laugh. More wine! More gnocchi! I’ll call Kate! I’ll text Amber! Gigi is in! How do you feel about safety pins? We’re Going To Need More Gold!
Perhaps it went nothing like this, but either way the fusion of these two iconic houses offers a heart-warming unity in an industry often plagued by vicious competition. And with the return to fashion as a tangible theatre, designers this season have been less inclined to rely on dystopia or lamented irony, instead ordering the freedom of fun as an unusual du jour.
Given we’ve been wholly reminded that runway shows in the flesh are a privilege, designers need no longer resist the power that comes from ripping up the rule book. And if this swap idea takes off we look forward to #ChanDior and #ValenPrada in the near future.