I want to like Fendi. I say this to myself every season. Fendi is an old, storied, and respected design house. Born in 1925 as a fur and leather shop, they have been a dominant presence in Italian fashion longer than I’ve been alive (and that’s saying something). But then, as has happened to a number of storied fashion labels, cash grew tight and the brand was sold to LVMH. And then, instead of their being a Fendi at the helm, Karl Lagerfeld was named creative director. Almost immediately, the line ceased being wearable.

Okay, so I’m being a bit harsh. There are some wearable pieces in this spring/summer 2014 collection. The concept sounds good, sort of. Waterfalls and electronics. Never mind that you wouldn’t actually want to mix those two in real life. As visual concepts, they manage to play out rather well in places.

What works best are the initial pieces, a digital pattern in color gradient waterfall moving from dark to light in some, and reversed in others. The effect is attractive and plays well. The geometric digital pattern, a shape loosely derived from an internal computer board, is flexible and allows itself to be applied in many different ways. In addition to the waterfall effect, it also looks good interspersed with alternating sheer panels, or as the defining edge to a jacket.

Silhouettes for many of the pieces are loose and some even manage to catch a bit of breeze, which is unusual for Fendi. Soft fabrics enhance the waterfall effect as models walk down the runway. Judging by the first 20 or so pieces, this collection looks as though it may just work.

Then the leather hits and everything gets stiff, including the graphics, and nothing looks or feels comfortable any more. Granted, Fendi is historically a leather house so it would be foolish to expect them to not do anything with the material. But the digital pattern, as well as other geometric patterns applied, don’t flow well and absolutely do not move on the stiff, heavy leather. As a result, what was gentle now seems rough, rigid, and immovable.

Throughout the leather pieces, laser cuts and cutouts dominate. At times, the cutouts create a large-patterned mesh that have the visual effect of wearing lattice board. On a softer, more pliable fabric, the cutouts might have worked quite well, but on leather it seems more like a colorful cage entrapping the body.

One exception toward the end of a collection is a printed plastic overcoat with the geometric shapes in white. The plastic has enough give to it for the designs to move a bit, making them more alive. Unfortunately, Lagerfeld chose to not apply the plastic to many looks.

Fathered embellishments dominated accessories such as Silvia Fendi’s hand bags (Lagerfeld doesn’t have control of everything). At times, the purses had so much fur and leather on them that models appeared to already be toting small animals under their arms. Their cuteness applied to classic Fendi bag designs almost guarantee brisk sales.

Over all, this 2014 collection is an improvement over previous seasons. Just avoid the leather and everyone should be safe.

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