I’ve been watching fashion shows this month. I’ve been curious about what designers produced during the pandemic and how they’re choosing to present their collections considering the same. While there has been a great deal of buzz about Kim Jones being chosen to fill Karl Lagerfeld’s shoes at Fendi, I’ve been loving the work of the woman who stepped in to manage the transition, Silvia Venturini Fendi. This collection showed us her view of the world through her window during the height of the ongoing pandemic, searching for trees and greenery, and the time she spent during quarantine at home with family and all the domestic objects that surrounded them. With both the presentation and in the clothing’s design, she made these constraints into things of beauty. So far my favorite collection she stayed close to the notions of family traditions, crafts and a family future built from the rituals and traditions passed down from one generation to the next. This is a brand that began as a leather atelier and transformed into a global success at the hands of five Fendi sisters.
The presentation showed a family where women take the lead, all generations, and body types included in pastoral scenes of family gatherings and meals in a garden. The show invitations were a box of Fendi pasta. The set was white curtains. There were bed linens and apron dresses, sheer tunics, and comfortable knits. Accessories were renditions of picnic baskets and crochet pouches. Home became a safe space, a family retreat, and a place of love. It elevated everyday life and the comfort of domesticity through the creation of garments that connect to these values.
Perhaps this show resonated so powerfully for me because my desire to move north came from my quarantine experience of being separated from family and friends. Aside from one exceptionally hardy fir, there was no green from my window. I take notice of the fact that all the dreaming and imagining I’m doing about my new home involves long tables on our back lawn, filled with mismatched china and silver passed to me from my mother and my grandmother with vases of flowers and lush salads filled with vegetables and herbs grown by me in a garden. As the eldest of six, and my mother unable, perhaps my sister and I will become the matriarchs, and our daughters and my granddaughter will be the bearers of the traditions I see us creating here in my new home. And yes, in my daydreams I’m wearing a long apron dress, made by me of deconstructed clothes I no longer wear but have kept because they are full of memories. That dress will make new ones. The dress I’m wearing in this photo is from Mother of Pearl, a favorite sustainable brand.
The room I am most consumed with designing in my new home is the kitchen. Never would I believe that is the space that I would privilege the most, but my newfound delight in cooking and eating well as an antidote to my being so ill has become an everyday pleasure I now look forward to. The thought of friends and family filling the space, leaning on counters while we prepare food, sharing stories, and laughing or crying together fills me with a joy that has become even more pronounced considering what we have all been living through and will continue to live through, at least through the fall and winter and into the spring.
NYC begins indoor dining today and as I walk through my neighborhood, I see that not so many people are taking advantage and the ones that do are sitting in isolated pockets. There is little or no evidence of the reasons we usually go to restaurants: the ambiance, the mood and the buzz from the others who are there too. What now is the reason to go except to help those who’s living depends on it? During this time, my kitchen and dreams of my new one have become a new restaurant, one where family’s retreat to so they can be safe. I’m thinking more about the mood I want to create when people walk in my new kitchen than the actual objects and appliances that will fill it. I’m thinking about what configuration can hold the conversations, the intimacy, and the rituals and traditions of a family. Here in this transitional new restaurant social ties and social knowledge are valued in fresh ways as we all re-discover during this time what makes us feel safe and what is important.
What’s your vision of a safe retreat these days?