Fendi F/W 2016
Fendi F/W 2016

One fashion pastime in which I’ve never fully engaged is front row watching. Generally speaking, I’m not interested and truly don’t care, except for that one time Anna Wintour was accidentally placed on the second row. The Fendi show had some special guests sitting front row this morning that helped set the tone for the entire show: The Kigurumi. What’s a Kigurumi? It’s a furry little creature from Japan that most notably tends to hang off the end of a Fendi handbag. They were introduced a couple of years ago with a likeness of Karl Lagerfeld and have since become so popular they’ve literally taken on a life of their own. The Kigurumi have become a central part of Fendi’s marketing toward new, younger customers and not only were they live and sitting front row this morning, but their tiny likenesses are the one thing from this runway that is for sale right now.

This was a noticeably lighter and friendlier face of Fendi as the collection was lighter on leather, heavier on silk and fur, and spreading ruffles everywhere. The collection starts with fairly classic silhouettes from the 70s. Trouser legs are full and flared, skirts are short, colors are bright, and there are plenty of stripes that soon enough becomes the waves that dominate the rest of the show. Knits dominate this section, if you can find them under the voluminous coats, and one will want to especially pay attention to the skirts that have broad, flat panels in front and back with sharp-creased pleats along both sides. The look is understated a bit the first few times we see it, but really becomes powerful when used with silk.

As the collection grows, we get more of an Asian influence to the collection, which is totally understandable given the brand’s popularity in both China and Japan.  Embroidered flowers are more prevalent here as is the use of silk with silhouettes that make maximum effect of straight lines and careful folds. If one can sneak a peek under the gigantic full-length fur coat, one see the final dress is a beautiful silk kimono-style dress with a ruffled tie and embroidered flowers.

Ruffles are the dominant element, though, and what one cannot help but notice is the legwear. From any distance, this looks like a thigh-high boot of some kind, but it’s not. These are thigh-high stockings with ruffles at the top with identically colored shoes that are also ruffled. The color matching creates a unified look that is stunning, but only works if one buys both the stockings and the shoes.

There are also ruffles on purses, fur on purses, embroidery on purses, and, of course, Kigurumi on purses. The purses this season are especially light-hearted, which might be a challenge given the normal Fendi woman is more professional in her tastes. But again, the brand needs to appeal to a younger audience and given the limited budget of millennials, purses are a good place to start.

One final observation comes as Sylvia Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld stepped to the top of the runway to take their bow. Ms. Fendi had started to take a couple of steps out of the doorway when Lagerfeld reached out and pulled her back. He then seemed to teeter and stumble just the slightest bit as he turned and made his exit. Let’s remember that Karl is 82 and while he’s always been careful to keep any infirmity or physical challenge very private, it is inevitable that sooner or later he will begin to falter. One cannot help but wonder if we accidentally caught just the slightest hint of frailty from the storied designer.

This was the most fun I’ve seen in a Fendi show and the attitude was quickly catching among guests who rushed to take selfies with the Kigurumi and, I would imagine, are buying up those purse fobs as quickly as possible. Appealing to a younger generation looks good on this brand. We’ll see if it actually works for them.

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