With Fendace and Fendi x Skims, pre-war fashion house Fendi is going through a transformation via an array of social media-savvy strategies.
Fendi started life as a fur house in 1925, but in recent years has scaled back its use of animal hides and delved more into collaborations. First, that was with Versace on “Fendace,” released at this past Milan Fashion Week, and this week, with Skims, the shapewear label from Kim Kardashian West. Both Versace and Skims share one thing in common: They are big on the kind of celebrity culture that tracks well on social media. But it is unlikely that the growing number of collaborations is enough to divert attention from the lack of effort from Fendi on the sustainability front, which is currently fashion’s utmost preoccupation. For example, LVMH, owner of Fendi, has remained mum on the industry’s gradual move away from fur, although some of its brands like Stella McCartney have refused to use furs.
The Versace and Fendi collection was Fendi’s first collaboration to be featured on the catwalk. Titled “Fendace,” it involved a swap between the two brand’s designers and focused on the heritage of both brands. The collections were heavy on logos and included replications of ’90s Versace prints, by Kim Jones. In the Instagram age, a show’s set and attendee list are as important as the looks’ styling. And, playing well to online viewership, this star-studded event hosted pop stars like Dua Lipa and TikTok star Addison Rae. Meanwhile, supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss walked the runway.
As for the Skims collaboration, it was announced this week that the brands will come out with a complete ready-to-wear collection. It includes skin-tight tops, dresses and leggings, as well as swimwear and underwear, as are standard for the Skims brand. More from the Fendi side, the collection also includes a recycled puffer jacket and a bonded leather dress in a variety of neutral shades. “Fendi is about creating something for every woman, every different shape — and that’s something at the heart of Skims, too,” said Kim Jones in the press release. “Kim Kardashian West is doing a lot to celebrate inclusivity, including her admirable work with social justice in America. And, as a hard-working woman with a family, she is constantly striving to do her best. These values are something to celebrate.” The collection is highlighting the move toward size inclusivity that many luxury fashion brands have not yet embraced. As Skims reported $145 million in sales last year and expects to roughly double sales to $300 million this year, this partnership is set to help Fendi, both in terms of sales and public perception. The standard Skims collection comes in sizes from XS to 4X, with the collaboration coming in a similar range. Typical Fendi sizing goes up to XXL.
While many brands are shifting their direction toward drops and short-term collaborations, they are also moving toward products of better quality that meet sustainability goals and are built to last. It is well known that around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage. While Fendi has moved away from fur and Skims has noted that its packaging is biodegradable, the materials involved in the collaboration still leave a lot to be desired, on the sustainability front. The double ‘F’ motif that Fendi is known for actually stands for Fun Furs, according to LVMH’s brand book, an idea came from Karl Lagerfeld himself.
In the latest white paper from WGSN, published in October, design decisions for the fashion industry were called out as one of the key areas in need of change. “Growth, in terms of volume of items, and speed have often come at the expense of design, as the product-person relationship is dominated by algorithmic-driven highs that quickly fade, leaving unwanted (or worse, unsold) product. Considered design practice is the tool to tackle this issue,” the report states. Often with these collaborations, the limited-edition pieces are collectors items and are therefore less likely to become waste, but the issue of considered design still remains.
The collaboration features body-con dresses, for $4,200, that are made from bonded leather. Bonded leather is not as durable as genuine leather and has a short lifespan. It can also easily scratch, peel and flake, unlike genuine leather. Over time, bonded leather can also release some of the chemicals that were used when the fibers were bonded together, as the material is a mix of leather and plastic, typically a polyurethane binder. Although leather can be biodegradable, bonded leather makes it impossible to do so as separating the fabrics would ruin the leather quality.
The Fendi x Skims collection will launch on November 9 on its dedicated website and will be available at select Fendi stores and retailers globally. In the press release, the clash has been interpreted as a positive by Kardashian West. “The innovation in fabrics and fit typical to Skims paired with the luxury and quality of Fendi may feel unexpected to some people, but the similarities between our creative vision and goals are so closely aligned,” she said. “It’s that tension that excites me.”