Fendi Stages Starry Couture Tribute to Karl Lagerfeld in Heart of Ancient Rome

Zendaya Fendi Couture Fall Winter - Getty - H 2019
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Zendaya, Susan Sarandon, Jason Momoa, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kieran Shipka and Zoey Deutch traveled to Rome to pay tribute to Lagerfeld.

There are few brands that could pull off a takeover of the heart of Ancient Rome during peak tourism season. But Fendi is not your average Italian brand.

Fendi Couture presented its Fall/Winter 2019-20 show, “The Dawn of Romanity,” on Thursday night in a massive installation at the Temple of Venus, with 54 new looks dedicated to the number of years that Karl Lagerfeld oversaw the creative direction of the luxury fashion house.

Guests arrived as the sun went down at a private cocktail event before the show, held at the Palatine Hill with views overlooking the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus. Stars including Zendaya made ample use of the picturesque setting, taking glamorous shots against the backdrop of the Colosseum.

Other guests who came to pay homage to Lagerfeld and the brand included Susan Sarandon, Jason Momoa, Lisa Bonet and their children Lola and Nakoa-Wolf Momoa, Catherine-Zeta Jones and her daughter Carys Douglas, Kieran Shipka and Christian Coppola and Zoey Deutch.

The decorated fashion house lives and breathes Rome, founding its first fur and leather shop in the Eternal City 94 years ago. With its headquarters now in Rome’s Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, Fendi continues to shift some of Milan’s Italian glamour onto the capital, as well as continuously invests in restorations of the city’s historical sites.

It’s fitting that the Colosseum served as the backdrop to the show, as Palazzo della Civilta Italiana is nicknamed the “Square Coloseum,” commissioned by Mussolini to celebrate the original Roman landmark. The icon of Italian Rationalism is a cuboid marvel, featuring six stories of travertine marble rising above the EUR district of Rome.

Fendi’s new couture line celebrates Rome’s marble facade, with fabrics and patterns inspired by the imperfect patterns and rich mineral colors of nature’s monumental raw material. Sheer tulle pants and dresses, lightly imprinted with crystalline veins, swayed around the models as they walked, evoking living statues. Marbled-painted mink collars lined citrine-silk overcoats. Lattice leatherwork and elaborately stitched pieces of marbled silk evoked a tableau of mosaics, with the clothes seeming to almost emerge directly from the ruins.

Designer Silvia Venturini Fendi was inspired by the mosaics of Caligula’s Nemi pleasure ships and the remains of the Roman Forum floors. For the collection, she handpicked a series of Lagerfeld archive sketches to inform the lines and shapes of 54 pieces, from the sweeping drape of empress dresses to looks with elaborately decorated tops.

While other luxury brands have sworn off using fur, Fendi continues to double down on its core heritage. The first part of the show was a parade of the brand’s unique craftsmanship, as well as an ode to Lagerfeld himself, who originally came to Fendi in 1967 to modernize its fur line. The looks also paid tribute to Lagerfeld’s playfulness, with accessories including oversized tubular fur stoles that models dragged around the runway like pet snakes.

If the models were suffering in the 90-degree heat in knee-high leather boots and floor-length fur coats, they didn’t show it. Guests, each given a front-row seat in the winding runway, cooled themselves with Fendi handheld wicker fans even after the sun set.

The show ended in a stunning duo of sweeping patterned gowns. With giant bell sleeves and sweeping trains, the dresses looked as if they were plucked straight from a Raphael painting, a reminder of Italy’s role as the Renaissance’s key player, as well as the unparalleled craftsmanship evident in the country's exports today.