In the fickle and fast-moving world of fashion, to have designed for one house for 50 years is an astonishing, unique achievement. That is the length of Karl Lagerfeld’s tenure (so far) in ready-to-wear at Fendi, far longer than his better-known role at Chanel – a mere 32 years. Lagerfeld is not only amazingly energetic, he also designs his own-label range and does most of his brand’s press photography, but remains strikingly innovative. Fendi is about to enter new territory in Paris next week (July 8) with its first ever “haute fourrure” show.
Somehow, amid all this frenetic activity Lagerfield has also found time to create Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld, a limited-edition book (£100, first and second pictures) celebrating his five decades at the house, which comes in the form of five hand-stitched volumes in a painted wooden box, published by Steidl on July 1. One folio features special sketches by the designer, representing the style of the house’s furs in each decade. Another features sketches for the many logos he has designed for the brand in a half century, while a third features the revealing answers to 50 questions asked of Lagerfeld about Fendi, including his first memories of Silvia Venturini Fendi, the founders’ granddaughter and his design partner – she does the bags – who was four when he first arrived.
For anyone interested in both brand and designer, the most fascinating section is the folio of 200 of his working sketches for the brand, with extensive examples from each decade illustrating both changing fashion and Lagerfeld’s changing style as an artist, and including this autumn’s collection and his comments on it. Particularly interesting are his observations on the five Fendi sisters who agreed to employ him – how they wanted to move fur away from bourgeois boredom and into adventurous realms, and the new techniques they have evolved to achieve this. Despite his assertion that he lives “for today, tomorrow and maybe after tomorrow”, Lagerfeld has created a very poignant record of this long relationship. Just don’t expect to treat it as light holiday reading; with the box it weighs in at over 3.4kg.
Earlier this year, Fendi opened a historic new HQ and gallery in Rome, and How To Spend It had the exclusive. For more shopping inspiration, let yourself be tempted by the brand’s philanthropic new bag collection.