Warmth is innate in utility and craft at the Fendi SS24 show

Warmth is innate in utility and craft at the Fendi SS24 show

Utilitarian attire, and the idea of uniforms in general, seem to have a death grip on fashion nowadays. On one hand, it’s about the comforting familiarity of workwear’s unchanging nature, which offers a reprieve from today’s lightning pace of life. On the other hand, it’s about compartmentalising novelty to quickly make sense out of fashion — the “-core” suffix is increasingly being employed to democratise the elaborate concepts and messages conveyed by creative directors. Put one and one together and you get Fendi’s SS24 collection which, at a glance, fits this formulaic revelation to a T.

Only it’s not so simple with Silvia Venturini Fendi. As much as some might describe her latest menswear collection to be “the marriage of craft-core and stealth wealth”, this post-mortem prescription overlooks what is ultimately a breath-taking iteration of an otherwise banal and almost overdone theme, complete with a warm humanness that can only be found in the House of Fendi.

As the third-generation member of an Italian fashion dynasty and a designer who has been enamoured by tradition and uniform for a long time, nailing a collection that is about the uniform of her makers should be no surprise. Her grandmother and founder of the namesake House, Adele Fendi, built an artisanal empire out of love, combining the realms of work and personal life into one that thrived on mutual care and concern. As much as the tendency to design such a collection comes from Silvia Venturini’s exposure to such a homely work environment from a young age, it’s also about growing up with a side of fashion that was giving, transparent, and honest — values that pillar Silvia Venturini’s Fendi today.

That’s why this season’s offerings defy single-line simplifications, embodying Adele’s respect for leather craftsmanship while echoing the brand’s deep respect for natural heritage in a timeless and seamless way; you know this is a sincere endeavour because orchestrating a concept like this at a purely superficial level is no easy task. It is why this presentation in the lab-like Fendi Factory was generously sun-lit and coded with warmth, a testament to the symbiotic movement of man and machine through the years — an exacting ode to “artisans of the future.”

Where her FW23 collection rewrote the classicality of Fendi’s silhouettes with thoughtful deconstruction, this SS24 presentation cemented her newfound menswear identity with designs that explore the depth of detail. The metafictional experience turned every leaf it could in the show, rolling out in the very building that births Fendi’s finest leather goods while those goods were in the process of being made.

The said goods included numerously-pocketed workwear belts, aprons and other tools of the trade that were being transformed into skirts, halter tops, tailored shorts and shin-grazing shirt-dresses — singing praise to the longstanding dedication of the Fendi craftspeople and their garb. Real leather-working tools were even attached to the tool belt at one point, then in a trompe l’oeil version on loose-fitted linen shirts; all these work-wear apropos softened and modernised by flashes of erogenous skin from the hip and a bevy of shrunken ribbed body tanks.

This sensuality was less discreet in Fendi’s actual display of technical excellence, where garments were fabricated and coloured with luxurious vegetal elements to celebrate the House’s and factory’s love of nature. Where raw materials like light summer wools, nettle fibre knits and a FF tweed — that nods to the Italian art of basket weaving — prove that innovation can be a playful, landscape-informed affair, FF scarf silks, plongé and nubuck leather highlighted the seductive and fluid allure of the organic form.

Monotone cotton drill co-ords fashioned mineral shades of burnt umber, only to be contrasted with the deep indigo of fil coupé FF denim, then diffused by the summery haze of sage, limestone, chalk, and pigments of acacia, juniper, henna and poppy — the serenity of the Tuscan hills clearly informing the designs of the collection.

The accessories took on similar thematic transformations, with supple woven baskets and knotted jacquard ‘lunch’ bags lined alongside raffia-embroidered weekenders and various leather iterations of a Crocs-like shoe, the Fendi Lab clog. A collaboration with famed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma furthered the conversation between the hand-made and industrial with reimagined versions of the Peekaboo, Baguette Soft Trunk and Fendi Flow sneakers in traditional waranshi paper, woven bamboo, birch bark and Tuscan olivewood — intertwining the crafts and sensibilities of Italian and Japanese art into one.

However, the strongest after-taste of the Fendi SS24 show was a sense of inclusion. From the presence of sheer, toile-like oatmeal shirts and tunics covered in measurement markings to the finale walk-out with Fendi’s artisans, this season extends an invitation to guests and onlookers to be part of the Fendi metiers, to behold the beauty of the crafting process through the eyes of its makers — an emulation of the very transparency that allows the Fendi factory to function like a family.

This sense of welcome also suffuses in multifold when you acknowledge how these garments are a reference to Silvia Venturini’s own childhood, almost bathing the show in a gentle glow of nostalgia. This is how craft found warmth under Silvia Venturini’s hands, and will continue to be a primary focus as Fendi’s menswear arm solidifies its mastery of fashion that is made with love.