Of fur, fashion and films
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The Rome headquarters of Fendi, Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana, is currently home to a digitally driven exhibition, titled Fendi Studios, that reveals the historic association of the fashion label with the silver screen. Walk through the exhibit—spread over three halls, a corridor and a movie theatre inside the building—and you begin to understand how fashion and cinema have influenced each other.
Fendi was established in Rome in 1925 by Edoardo and Adele Fendi, primarily as a fur and leather shop. By mid-century, the maison had been passed on to their five daughters, who provocatively addressed fashion for women in post-war Europe. In the 1960s, the Fendi sisters hired a young, talented, German-born French designer. His name was Karl Lagerfeld, who went on to become one of the most influential designers and creative directors globally.
The visit to Fendi Studios begins with a charming old-style Italian ticket office that introduces you to the cinematic experiences on offer. In the first studio, called Easy Riders, you can jump into an actual Alfa Romeo Duetto set against a green screen. A moving image of you fashionably driving the red vintage roadster is projected on to a screen in front of you; wind blowing through your hair just like Barbara Carrera, the Never Say Never Again Bond girl in a Fendi stole. In another part of the exhibit, A Room With A View, you look into a giant mirror and pose for a portrait of yourself, against iconic sets of films like The Age Of Innocence, starring Michelle Pfeiffer in a Fendi coat.
The best, however, is the infinity mirrored corridor called Fendi’s Adventures in Tenenbaumland. It features scenes from Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, with Gwyneth Paltrow in a mink trench coat, playing the tormented Margot. The Every Princess Needs to Rest room is an impressive glass-walled lounge area overlooking the city of Rome, with mannequins and screens showing film clips like Sharon Stone in Catwoman, A Golden Boy and Basic Instinct 2, Monica Bellucci in How Much Do You Love Me?, and Catherine Deneuve in Princesse Marie, among others.
On display is the hand-painted, red silk velvet cloak that Tilda Swinton wore in The Grand Budapest Hotel, as well as the famed purple bag (pardon, baguette) from Sex And The City. How can we forget Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) yelling at a mugger pointing a gun at her, “It’s a baguette!” At the end of the exhibition, you find an exclusive theatre called Fendi Cinema: A Hotel Budapest-like red room with velvet chairs and lamps, showing a selection of movies featured in the exhibition. “For us, it’s an opportunity to exhibit Fendi’s incredible creativity,” says Pietro Beccari, Fendi’s outgoing CEO. Fendi Studio’s is one of the last projects Beccari has overseen before he moves on to Christian Dior, a company owned by LVMH, the same holding company that owns Fendi.
In an interview following the immersive walk-through, Beccari spoke to Lounge about the love between Fendi and cinema, and his favourite Fendi-in-cinema moments. Edited excerpts:
Can we say that Fendi’s love affair with the film industry started with the setting up of Cinecittà, the largest film studio in Europe, in Rome in 1937?
Yes. It’s important to consider that Fendi’s presence on screen is not linked to mere product placement. It’s a mutual relationship that has grown over many years. The Fendi Studios exhibition is the consequence of a very authentic collaboration, of love for cinema and closeness to the movie industry, that Fendi has had since its early years. I say authentic because the Fendi sisters were close to the industry. Great actors and directors like Federico Fellini would socialize and have dinners at the sisters’ atelier. Fellini would call them “le mie Fendine”, which means “my little Fendis”. He was such a passionate fan of theirs. As per rumours, he was in love with one of the five, but he never revealed who.
Does this exhibition express the “Roman soul” of Fendi?
Fendi has done a lot for Rome and with Rome, including restoration of the Trevi Fountain. This exhibition is deeply connected to the city as well. Rome is at the origin of Fendi’s collaboration with cinema, but over time it spread out into the global cinema industry. We wanted to pay tribute to the global story of Fendi in cinema, a story that few know and that we have rarely spoken about. It’s an opportunity to show the relationship between Fendi and great film-makers like Silvana Mangano in Conversation Piece (1974) by Luchino Visconti, more recent films like Sharon Stone in Cat Woman (2004) and Marisa Berenson in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love (2010). Such a long history shows that Fendi’s affinity with cinema is not only about being able to create iconic fashion pieces, but to become part of a collective vision. The art of movie-making and the art of fashion are about creating a collective culture.
Do you have a favourite Fendi-in-cinema piece?
One of my favourites is Gwyneth Paltrow, wearing the signature mink trench in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), which has been a best-seller ever since. I would also mention another Wes Anderson movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Tilda Swinton’s costume in the film perfectly expresses the encounter between a great costume-maker like Fendi and an Oscar-winning costume designer, Milena Canonero. I cannot forget the scene from The Devil Wears Prada (2006) with Miranda, played by Meryl Streep, throwing her beautiful Fendi coat on the seat. Finally, let me cite Evita (1996): Madonna greeting the crowd as Evita is part of the history of cinema, but also a stunning fashion moment. It’s not something that could go unobserved.
This exhibit is a celebration of glamorous women. A favourite actress from the Fendi studio ?
It has to be Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (2013), directed by Woody Allen. She won the Oscar for best actress.
The exhibition offers an interactive experience not only of film sets, but also of the Fendi headquarters. The location is important to this experience.
Our headquarters, Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana, has often been a set filmed by Italian film-makers like Rossellini, Antonioni, Fellini. More recently, Julie Taymor shot Titus (1999) here. A lot of visitors want to take selfies here, but the building is too huge. The Palazzo of Desires studio hosts a scale model of Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana, and visitors’ faces are projected on to the façade of the model. It’s perfect for selfies.
Fendi Studios documents the variety of film projects that Fendi has worked on. Any other cultural ventures being planned?
Fendi is very proud to promote Italian art and beauty, supporting Rome’s Galleria Borghese with the launch of a new institute dedicated to the Italian master painter Caravaggio. It’s a three-year partnership which aims to become a point of reference for research about the artist worldwide. The first exhibit on Caravaggio was inaugurated last November at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and, in future, will be shown in China.
Fendi Studios is on till 25 March.