The Bioengineered Femme Fatale Who Inspired Fendi’s A/W18 Show

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Blade Runner, 1982(Film still)

Fendi’s upcoming collection is an ode to the 1980s, via the 1940s – and who better exemplifies that aesthetic than Blade Runner’s chicest Replicant?

In 1982, director Ridley Scott re-imagined 2019 Los Angeles as a dystopian cityscape, where humans and Replicants (bioengineered androids supposedly devoid of emotional capacity) are in conflict with one another. Blade Runner, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, examined a future dictated by the callousness of technology, through a neo-noir lens. As such, it is renowned for being one of the most highly stylised pieces of cinema, reminiscent of the 1940s films of Howard Marks, Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang. 

Central to the film’s sultry ambiance is the character Rachael, a Nexus-7 Replicant who has been programmed with memories from a non-existent childhood. Created to emulate a Lauren Bacall-esque femme fatale, Rachael (played by Sean Young) is undoubtedly one of the most iconic on-screen sirens of all time; her costumes, hair and make-up – the pinnacle of an ‘80s-does-40s’ aesthetic – have served the fashion industry with continual inspiration. This was true for Karl Lagerfeld, who captured the mood of Blade Runner for Fendi A/W18, via fitted skirt suits, angular shoulder pads and slick vinyl fabrications. Here, we too examine Rachael’s sartorial codes. 

The Signature Style

When Rachael makes her first appearance, she is clad in a black patent skirt suit, walking over to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) – who is about to perform the ‘Voigt-Kampff’ test, designed to distinguish replicants from humans – with a stiff, unwelcoming gait and an exquisite resting bitch face. “Do you mind if I smoke?”, she ‘asks’, whilst lighting up a cigarette held between long fingernails, lacquered in red polish. “Is this testing whether I’m a Replicant or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard?” she continues.

As the film progresses, Rachael’s looks become more ostentatious; humongous fur coats that wouldn’t look out of place on a young Joan Crawford auditioning for a part as The Honey Monster, and matronly blouses – covered buttons, high necklines and all – that she wears while tending to an injured Deckard. In 2015 Michael Kaplan, Blade Runner’s costume designer, told AnOther: “For Rachael’s character, our chief inspirations were the tailored suits that [Gilbert] Adrian designed in the late 1930s and early 40s. I liked the idea of combining different shades of suiting fabrics to create patterns – something Adrian did. In this case I used amazing vintage suiting woollens in shades of grey and beige, with metallic threads that I was lucky enough to find, which created a subtle luminous quality. I wanted to create a futuristic heroine who was believable in the future, but with her feet firmly planted in film noir past.” He achieved just that. 

The Modern Manifestation

Similarly, Silva Venturini Fendi described the Italian house’s A/W18 collection as “a romantic uniform for a strong and powerful woman of today” – and while Karl Lagerfeld looked to silhouettes of decades past, there was a distinct air of modernity to the clothes. This isn’t the first time that Rachael has appeared on a Fendi moodboard, either. For its first ever couture show in 2015, Sam McKnight noted: “The stylist Charlotte Stockdale and I didn’t want to do a small, slicked-back head, and something in my head was playing the theme from Blade Runner – maybe the model at the fitting reminded me of Sean Young!”