Fendi kicks off Milan fashion week with nod to Roman heritage with a British twist

<span>A model sporting the latest Fendi collection at the Milan fashion week.</span><span>Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images</span>
A model sporting the latest Fendi collection at the Milan fashion week.Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Milan fashion week is officially under way, under a heavy cloud of smog. Some reports have said that at times in the last few days, the northern Italian city has been the second most polluted in the world. And while Fendi womenswear designer Kim Jones mentioned a sore throat brought on by the pollution, he was able to tell a handful of press backstage before his show that his latest collection was inspired by sketches from the Fendi archives.

They were the work of the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, who had a 54-year tenure at the Italian fashion house before Jones took the helm in 2020 and who used to sketch prolifically on notepads as chunky as the Yellow Pages.

From 1984, the sketches, according to Jones in the show notes, reminded him “of London during that period: the Blitz Kids, the New Romantics, the adoption of workwear, aristocratic style, Japanese style.

“It was a point when British subcultures and styles became global and absorbed global influences. Yet still with a British elegance in ease and not giving a damn what anybody else thinks, something that chimes with Roman style.”

Fashion has been preoccupied with the 1990s and 2000s in recent years, so it was perhaps time that the 1980s had a moment to shine. Some of the big names of the New Romantics era were nodded to via details – pink and green sequin polka dots were a reference to the performance artist and designer, Leigh Bowery, who used polka dots in a more-is-more way, wearing a polka dot suit to match a polka dot face. Here they were significantly more understated.

The lenses of sunglasses came with the appearance of being pre-misted, as if worn by the Blitz Kids emerging from the damp of the Tuesday club-night at Blitz in Covent Garden, which is to thank for their name. Earrings and necklaces were robust and no-nonsense.

But a past more distant than the 1980s was also called upon. While the classical statues of Rome were Jones’s inspiration last season, for this collection images of Statua femminile ammantata and Immacolata Concezione appeared on jumpers, dresses and skirts.

This collection was an exploration of “an ease of dressing where London nonchalance meets Roman freedom”. That nonchalance came via bodies left undone, their poppers on show. The freedom was perhaps best embodied by the leather riding boots in which the models stomped down the catwalk. And there was a little bit of humour thrown in, too, via leather lollipop holders on bags – the work of Silvia Venturini Fendi, artistic director of accessories.

Fendi is one of the few big luxury brands yet to ban fur, and while last season’s collection was fur-free, heavy instead with leather and shearling, this season fur made a reappearance. So it was little surprise that a Peta protester – the activist who dressed as a goat at last September’s London fashion week briefly crashed the catwalk.