What we expect from the combination of Sylvia Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld is typically a collection of very structured, contemporary looks, often pushing some visual boundaries, stretching concepts for traditional fabrics and trying out some new ones. We’ve seen some Fendi collections in the recent past that bordered on the bizarre and required some serious re-working before going into production. I rather doubt this collection will have the same issues, though. If anything, watching this show felt very, very toned down compared to previous seasons, as though the designers had taken a couple of steps back to re-think their approach a bit.

Primary to this spring/summer collection is the concept of multi-strapping, something that is used often throughout these pieces, sometimes so subtly that one doesn’t catch the effect at first glance. Very few pieces are large swatches of unmodified fabric. Instead, straps  run both horizontally and vertically along very precise lines and frequently laser cuts. Skirts are the most frequent recipient of the strapping, and the most obvious, but it is the more quiet use that is most impressive. Other times, razor cuts into printed ombre leather provides a similar effect that works better for tops with black bandeau’s worn beneath (an unusual tip toward modesty).

A handful of orchid prints are visible at the start of the show, and look lovely in a mini shift dress and origami fold over. That look was left rather quickly, though, in favor of dye-dipped leather that provided a unique and quietly attractive gradient that, again, left a more subtle aesthetic to the clothes.

I was actually a bit surprised by just how many shift dresses were sent down the runway. Fendi usually contains a lot more diversity in their silhouettes but shift dresses and cropped jackets and pleated skirts made frequent appearances on this very long catwalk. Of course, there were touches of feather and sheer plastic overlays giving the collection an occasional punch, but we didn’t see as many of those looks as one might have expected and even there the overall emotion was scaled back considerably. Laser cutouts along the sides of leather skirts and the back of a few dresses provided a  little bit of provocation, but nothing too terribly over the top. Pants were surprisingly roomy at the hips, even to the point we saw several pair of riding pants in the collection.

Of course, the bags were small, and many dangling furry little faces from them ala last season’s Lagerfeld doll. Shoes were even more strappy than the clothes, and were a lot more colorful as well. Considering how large a collection this is, the palette in use is rather small.

Some people are going to be disappointed by this Fendi collection because it doesn’t yell and scream and stomp its feat as it has at other times. Yet, this more subtle Fendi is likely more wearable, and ultimately more enjoyable, than anything the label has produced in three or four years. This season is a very good, very strategic move for Fendi. Let’s hope it continues.

Photo credit: Yanni Vlamos

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