It’s in the bag.
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Despite their long-standing position on a branch at the top of the fashion family tree, the Fendi dynasty rest on no laurels. With Ilaria running eco-accessory company Carmina Campus and bright, young twenty-something Delfina Delettrez Fendi dreaming-up otherworldly creations with a jewellery brand of her own, they dedicatedly challenge convention and push the boundaries of the industry. As the other’s pursue their own paths, the family’s remaining ‘in-Fendi-house’ representative Silvia carries a heavy pressure on her shoulders. Head of accessories and menswear, and a close collaborator with Fendi Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld and i-D Fashion Director, Charlotte Stockdale on the brand’s womenswear line, Silvia is the spring in the step of Fendi’s stylish strides.
One of her most acclaimed and distinguished achievements has to be her successes with the iconic ‘Baguette Bag’. When she first put pen to paper and dreamt up the design in 1997, the accessories landscape was a very different place: functional leather day bags nestled alongside frivolous moments of snazzy but somewhat impractical evening pieces. As 2012 marks the 15th anniversary of the iconic under-shoulder holder, Fendi are celebrating with a bag bonanza, reissuing several of the design’s most acclaimed versions, alongside several new interpretations, and publishing a tome-like catalogue of past designs. The catalogue is accompanied by a series of sketches by Lula, creator of illustrated fashion biannual HERSELF magazine, who, when asked to describe the Baguette in five words, answered: “In only one word It’snotabagit’saBaguette!”. Here we speak to Silvia about her successes and admire Lula’s artistic interpretation of an iconic fashion statement.
Let’s talk about the beginnings of The Baguette, the fabled tale is that you were asked to design something minimal and you kind of disobeyed, is that always how you approach design? Yes, a little bit. I like challenges. If they ask for something easy, which at the time was “a minimal bag”, something that many other companies had already pursued, I try to have a different approach. It’s important to me to feel emotionally involved in something. I think with fashion what you look for is to create the same interest in people when they see the pieces, you want people to feel they’re experiencing something they haven’t before.
But where did you develop the instincts to know what people would be excited by? It’s something that I learned as a child, watching the approach of Karl and my mother and my sister as they were working on the collections, with them it was “never happy, never enough, never looking back” and I applied that too. At the time bags were very functional, The Baguette was the first bag that was treated like a piece of fashion, that was used on runways and was changing according to the season, it was really treated in a different way. Also the materials we applied were used in ready to wear, before that bags were basically in leather or in nylon or in canvas, I think The Baguette was one of the first bags to be done in fur or in jeans or beading… They beaded a lot in evening bags in the 40s but The Baguette was a day time bag, it was beaded but the shoulder strap was in leather.
Do you remember the first time you took out a Baguette? I don’t remember the first time but I know I was always the last one to have one! Every time I took one they would call me and say “Can you give it back because we need it to shoot?” It was still a small company at the time and we were not really prepared for the incredible success. I remember I took one once, it was black and white with a turquoise buckle, it was beautiful, but the next day I had to give it back to the press office as they needed it. It was always like that!
During the design process did you feel you were developing something iconic? No, no. I was looking for something that would give me a good vibe, I was sure it was a good object, but I was not expecting the reaction it created. How could you be sure about that? At the time the phenonmenon of an ‘It Bag’ didn’t exist. What followed was a big shift, as the fashion industry began dealing with accessories in a different way, it was a good moment for everybody, not just for Fendi.
What is it that you think makes an iconic accessory? I think it is the quality of the idea. Quality not just in the material but also in the approach, the way that the object is designed.
Are accessories are an important part of your personal identity? Yes. Well, I am quite minimal in my personal style. I love extravagant accessories sometimes. What I love about them is that they’re different from fashion, they’re more like objects, that’s why I’m very interested in design. When you deal with accessories you deal with a lot of technical aspects, you deal with functionality which I like. I see myself as more of an artisan, I like to work on the details, spending hours on the same piece. I think it has a lot to do with my personality…
Certainly, and it’s interesting to see your daughter Delfina’s work because she’s developed that idea of accessories as art also… Yes I think people in my family have a gift, we are really manual, we work very well with our hands. My son for instance isn’t in fashion, nor in jewellery, but he builds many things by himselves, he’s a surfer and he builds his surf boards by himself. It’s in the family!
What inspires you? I like architecture very much. When I travel, it can be very dangerous as I walk down the streets and I’m always looking up at the houses never where I’m going! I’m crazy for all the little details.
I met Delfina recently at the launch of her exhibition in Florence, she takes after you… I think she’s a little bit like me, she takes a look at everything. When she walks down the street I look at the buildings and she looks in the grass and at the trees. When you’re born in a family that give great value to any aesthetical aspect it’s hard not to be part of it. For my mother, for example it wasn’t ephemeral but substantial. When I was a little girl, just 6 years old, I would go to the atelier and there were all these women making clothes around my body, it was a ceremony. For me it wasn’t “just go and buy something”, it was far more that that. At home, the ceremony of colours was always a big thing. My mother had periods when we would just eat green things or orange things for months. If she was into something it was in our dinner and our lunch! If she liked blue things at the time, we would eat blue things! It could sound a little bit crazy but it helped us to get into art and colours in a really natural way. I grew up like this, my daughter grew up like this and her daughter will probably grow up like this. It was like being at university from when you were born. We have been really lucky. You’re always inspired and there is always something to learn.
Celebrating fifteen years of the iconic baguette bag, ‘Fendi Baguette’ by Silvia Venturini Fendi is available now published by Rizzoli New York. Head here for more information.
Text: Sean Baker
Fendi bags pictured from left. One: Baguette Specchietti, S/S 1999, Limited Re-Edition 2012 Now In Store. Two: F/W 1999. Three: Baguette Jeans: S/S 2000. Four: Limited Re-Edition 2012 Now In Store. Five: F/W 2006-2007. Six: S/S 2008. Seven: Sung Jin Kim, Special Collaboration.