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Versace Fendi Fendace collaboration Kim Jones Donatella
Versace by Fendi – Fendi by VersaceCourtesy of Versace

When Fendi Met Versace: A Fashion Collaboration for the Ages

It was a giddy, delirious, unapologetic ripping-off of one another, and a ripping-up of the fashion rulebook, writes Alexander Fury of Kim Jones and Donatella Versace’s designer-swap show

Lead ImageVersace by Fendi – Fendi by VersaceCourtesy of Versace

It was the worst-kept secret of Milan Fashion Week. For five days, various editors, journalists and buyers were to be seen huddled in darkened corners, a fist flashing out to yank an expensive collar, tugging the wearer into the semi-darkness for someone to hiss into their ear … 

“What do you know about Fendi Versace?”

The news unofficially broke on the Business of Fashion – as many things are – a few days prior to the unveiling. But rumours had swirled for a while that the houses of Fendi and Versace – or, more accurately, their respective creative directors Kim Jones and Donatella Versace – were cooking up something big. Press reps for both refused to comment; NDAs had been signed. The only clue as to what was happening was a cryptic note, on Donatella Versace’s personal, raw-edged notepaper, written in golden ink – what else? – inviting you to the Palazzo Versace on Via Gesù on Sunday night. But very few beyond the inner circle really knew what that could entail. A collection? A show? A baguette studded with Medusa heads and bristling with Liz Hurley-worthy ‘Miss S&M’ inspired safety pins? Well, yes, all of the above. And much, much more.

Essentially, each designer invited the other to reinterpret their fashion house. Yet with such strong signatures – logos, styles, identities, icons – each wound up a hybrid. After all, you can’t stop Donatella being Versace, and Kim Jones, barely a year into his Fendi tenure, is enamoured with that house’s signs and signifiers. So what you ended up with was a glorious fusion, Fendi logos and Versace Barocco swirls jostling to grab attention across the bodies of some of the most famous models of the past three decades. And that was an homage to Gianni Versace, the man who invented the supermodel. There were also lots of Baguette bags in honour of Silvia Venturini Fendi, who invented the It-bag in the 1990s. The show took place on Via Gesù – Versace’s spiritual and literal home  – where, for the first time ever, a bunch of Medusas spun to reveal the Fendi logo, as the audience roared with approval.

It’s dumb to try and detail the litany of crisscrossing references mashed together in this collection, which has been dubbed ‘Fendsace’ by its creators (duh). Actually, it was two collections: Kim Jones’ Versace via Fendi, and Donatella Versace’s reconfiguring of Fendi. The latter was paraded on a bunch of models as Donatella doppelgängers in poker-straight wigs, closing with Naomi Campbell in a metal mesh dress where double-Fs smashed into Vs (for Versace? Sure, but also for victory). Meanwhile, the opening act by Jones included Kristen McMenamy, Amber Valetta, Shalom Harlow, and Kate Moss and her daughter Lila in matching swirly-whirly scarf-prints and Greca-key necklaces that right-angled, seamlessly and effortlessly, into Fendi’s ‘Fs’. “It’s the beauty of togetherness,” said Kim Jones. “A true creative dialogue that stems from respect and friendship,” added Versace.

The whole thing was an escapist fantasy, with supermodels, super-logos, but no super-egos. It was a giddy, delirious, unapologetic ripping-off of one another, and a ripping-up of the fashion rulebook. And kudos to both LVMH and Capri, honestly, for affording each designer such freedom, and trusting their gut instincts. It’s not exactly what multi-billion-pound luxury conglomerates are known for in a difficult fashion marketplace. Kudos as well to Jones and Ms Versace – neither of whom can be accused of being half-hearted in this embracing of glorious excess. When they came out to take their bow, logos spinning in the back like the audience’s heads seemed to be, they near enough brought the house down. That is, both houses. Form an orderly queue for the pending product drops in-store …