MILAN, Italy — Silvia Fendi claimed her new men’s collection was sparked by a photo from the 1970s of a hirsute Elton John fast asleep, with only a pair of fur-trimmed glasses to shield his modesty. The snap was on her moodboard, along with images of cartoonist Saul Steinberg’s famous paper bag mask series. Silvia said the show invitation, a speech bubble with the word FENDI inside, was an homage to Steinberg. She liked the way his masks transformed the everyday, the same way Elton’s fuzzy glasses made the ordinary surreal. That transformative element was big in this collection. Fendi’s classic Selleria stitch was rendered large in metal thread on bags, knits pretended to be fur. (Such knits! This was one Fendi collection where wool ruled.) Loungewear was transmogrified into streetwear, though which street, where was grounds for febrile conjecture. Fur-lined slip-ons have become a contemporary fashion trope in less time than it takes to say “Celine.” Here they were small furry animals, gathered together in a cave and grooving with a Pict.
This collection did, in fact, get a solid swinger’s groove going. Silvia said there was another moodboard somewhere, with Hugh Hefner in full effect. You scarcely needed to see it when his presence could be so acutely felt in the bathrobes and languorous silk pyjama pants and the fake-fur-lined spiral staircase, which ascended to Lord knows what love nest. On Michel Gaubert’s soundtrack, Barry White was pouring aural chocolate over the whole scenario.
But there were other Hefner-proof fashion conceits that exerted an appeal above and beyond the lounge lizard in his passion pad. The Little Monsters that have been such a profitable sideline for Fendi made a welcome reappearance as the glowering eyes on the elbows of a coat. There were those incredibly gorgeous knits and a lean black leather coat edged in pink, with a matching collar in pink shearling. There was a gunmetal parka with a searing yellow shearling lining… at which point, we sidle back into the surreal. Best to slip away up that spiral staircase and see what a snoozing Hugh — or better yet, Elton — has in store for us.