Fendi and the Cinema: An exhibition exploring Fendi’s storied relationship with the silver screen.
It’s a sweltering hot day during Milan fashion week, and I’m in a cinema. The Cinema Manzoni to be exact. It’s obviously rather dark, the air conditioning is on full whack and there’s somewhat ominous music playing. Rather than having escaped the show schedule to watch some Italian horror film, I am in fact here at the invitation of Fendi to see Making Dreams: Fendi and the Cinema, their incredible exhibition exploring the brand’s storied relationship with the silver screen. My amiable companion in this is Patrick Kinmonth, co curator of the show along with Antonio Monfreda.
The exhibition focuses on ‘Making’, in essence the parallels between the creation of a fur coat and a film. If this sounds a bit far fetched, it’s not; they are joined in the journey from imagination to the real world via work by hand and the collaborative process. Just as many hands come together to create a fur coat, many thousands make a film, and the exhibition’s design reflects the multi sensory aspect of both crafts. Says Patrick of the operatic, dreamlike set design, “A lot of people will find it quite weird and destabilising to walk over the cinema seats on glass where it feels as if your next step is a plunge to your death. That is actually part of the visceral thing about this show, the emotion of the cinema, the drama of it all.”
The first piece we come across, ‘Snowdon and Fendi’, shows a photo session with the five Fendi sisters brought to life by modern technology – as we move, so do the indomitable women, swathed in the most enormous furs known to man. “They sort of are like cocoons and I know that picture, that sitting very well. I went and saw Snowdon in London and I asked him if I could take not one picture, but ten and then animated between the different shots, the sequence of the sitting and so I turned the stills into a movie.”
This leads to a second area dedicated to icon of Italian cinema Silvana Magnano (film fact – Magnano’s mother was British). A circular screen projects images from the film Fendi have restored, Gruppo di familia in un interno, and four mannequins with her distinctive profile model the various luxuriant Fendi furs she wore in the film, whilst sat in the Cinema Manzoni’s own seats.
At the heart of the exhibition Fendi’s huge contribution to the world of cinema is fully revealed. Video screens show scenes from six films, from 1983’s 007 Never Say Never Again, to 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. The screens cluster around furs from the films, light from the screens illuminating the garments. Obviously a highlight is the coat worn by Madonna in her opus Evita, and thus we see her arms aloft, repeated across several screens, and the fur itself. Madonna has worn this, I think as I look upon it. Looking at the many different furs, Patrick remembers “Amanda Harlech was here and she said it’s funny because all of these furs are from different movies, but they add up in a way to a Fendi woman. They’re all by different costume designers. But I think all of those costume designers, the ones who are doing furs in a more modern context, they actually want to make contact with that Fendi spirit. You see how different people have responded to it, it’s something quite concrete to the Fendi woman.”
From this tableau, Fendi guides us gently through an arch arrayed with its greatest cinematic hits, to an amphitheatre where one can watch Making Dreams, Fendi and Cinema, filmed in the deserted Cinecitta. Round racks of film reels we follow a mystery woman in Fendi furs through the ages and their many transformations. This is followed by possibly my favourite area, entitled Mapping Fendi, where small Fendi fur creatures are projected across and white fur screen. It’s akin to stepping into a sci fi film set after being an extra in a period piece, being put on fast forward through the House of Fendi’s history; mind boggling, and testament to the incredible craftsmanship at work.
Musing on the journey from the incredible vintage furs seen at the start of the exhibition to the futuristic techniques at the end, Kinmouth muses “The show starts with what somebody has called “yeti-chic” [chuckles]. Huge 1980’s Fendi furs, which when you look at them now, you say ‘Oh my God I’ve forgotten,’ I really had forgotten that was possible. We had this huge volume and these amazing pelts and everything that makes fur so amazing is in that picture. The final coat in the show is this incredible thing that Karl Lagerfeld did, changing the whole character and the whole possibility of what fur can be. A super light shaved mink, a lovely simple thing. We’ve turned that into a screen on which we project all the techniques used in the atelier. It was like a dream coat.”
Words Jack Sunnucks