When Orlando Dies, Family Thrives
The First Fendi Couture show with fashion designer Kim Jones was on January 27, 2021. The idea behind it was an intriguing blend between Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Bernini’s timeless marble gracing Rome’s streets to this day. These inspirations gave more than enough stories to tell and explore by revealing interpersonal connections at Fendi Haute Couture Spring Summer 2021.
These are stories of family, age, sex, heritage, privilege, knowledge, individuality. The list is long and for the sake of clarity, I will only look into a few of the concepts the show has touched upon. Starting with Kim Jones’ personal connection bringing him back to his childhood. Jones was partly raised and owns a house in the village of Rodmell, located nearby the Charleston Farmhouse, the 16th-century Sussex retreat of the Bloomsbury set.
Virginia Woolf was a part of the Bloomsbury group. Her novel ‘Orlando: A Biography‘ was published in 1928, just a few short years after the house of Fendi was founded (1925). The novel, being so relevant to this day, became a central part of the show’s theme ─ the journey from Bloomsbury to Borghese.
Ageless Beauty at Fendi
When I first saw the catwalk show, set in Paris, I thought to myself such an amazing cast of women, having written #agelessbeauty all over it. Little did Virginia knew that 100+ years later being a woman hasn’t gotten much easier and trading places with Orlando might still sound ever so luring if it means not aging.
That is, especially, if one has to deal with the media and unrealistic standards for what is natural when it comes to aging, among many other topics in the fashion industry. Why is it that Demi Moore’s look created such a buzz in the press and social media? It is safe to say the pressure is on as we still have different expectations when it comes to models and actresses. We need more of the right conversations.
Why do we put such boundaries on these people? The moment something is slightly different in their appearance it becomes a center of attention. The buzz around Demi’s makeup was more than that of the collection itself. No one complained when she appeared in Rihanna’s ‘Savage x Fenty Vol. 2’ show which came out in October 2020.
Could it be we are so used to Demi’s signature long black hair to be falling freely down that inevitably affects how we perceive her? The different styling in Fendi’s couture show just proved how her hair is a big part of her perceived identity and how the world sees her. This story within the story just shows how unaccepted the concept of ageless beauty is in society.
From Bloomsbury to Borghese
Nonetheless, I believe Woolf would have derived a certain satisfaction from Kim Jones’ interpretation of Orlando’s story. First, from the tailoring and creating genderless looks. The interpretation of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s frescoes of Charleston combined with hand-beaded prints and the painted tailoring reminding of the marble in Galleria Borghese.
Second, if anything was to stay with us from Orlando, it would be the belief in great personalities. Fendi gathered a cast representing actresses, supermodels, mothers, daughters, sisters, adventurers, artists, friends, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, activists. All strong women who are separate stories on their own.
Angelo Flaccavento wrote for BOF: ‘It was interesting to see the very Italian idea of family morph into a more British concept of clan, or tribe, while the feeling of female empowerment through glitz was certainly a message of continuity. At Fendi, women rule: they always have and hopefully they always will.’
The show opened with Demi Moore and closed with Naomi Campbell. The cast, in order of appearance, included Miriam Sanchez, Bella Hadid, Lila Moss, Kate Moss, Thatcher Thornton, Kayako Higuchi, Evgenia Dubinova, Kiki Willems, Cara Delevingne, Adwoa Aboah, Ludwig Wilsdorff, Kesewa Aboah, James Turlington, Christy Turlington Burns, Leonetta Fendi, Delfina Delettrez Fendi.
This powerful cast was perfect for the short recreation of Orlando as well as playing with concepts from the Bloomsbury Group bringing gender and sexuality discussions up and front. Entertaining the viewer with short passages from letters exchanged between friends and lovers Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, on whom Orlando was based.
Importantly, there were few details to bind the story. The set-up of the show as seen from above represented the Fendi logo, which was also present in the accessories. Orlando transpired through details such as a bag made to look like the novel’s bound covers or a handwritten-like massage on a Mother of Pearl minaudière.‘Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.' ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando. Click To Tweet
Life behind glass walls
Last but not least, the couture show seemed created to inspire us, give us hope and reflect on today’s social situation. The setting felt like a perfect reflection of our life as we are all separated but at the same time together. Living like behind glass walls as social media and technology brings us closer.
We might be closed up like Orlando in his mansion and in solitude at times but we are also just like her ― lovers of nature and will persevere this pandemic like a beautiful perennial.
PS: Check out Naomi’s behind the scenes of Fendi Couture Spring Show 2021 full of insights: