In the words of Lizzo, all the rumours were true. Two of the biggest names in fashion, Fendi and Versace, came together to mark the end of Milan Fashion Week with a dual show, titled ‘The Swap’, or, in the mainstream, ‘Fendace’. Whilst this was a major fashion moment, exciting the fashion-week-goers and global audiences alike, this wasn’t a collab. For ‘the swap’, Donatella Versace invited attendees to an ‘intimate creative experience’ in which she would put her spin on Fendi, while Kim Jones designed for Versace, all with the help of a slew of supermodels. But how did they get here, and if not a collaboration what exactly was the swap?
Well, looking back to April, Gucci celebrated its centenary year with ‘Gucciaga’: a collection in which Balenciaga ‘hacked’ Gucci’s show, creating a logo-heavy, hyped and yet somewhat unsurprising collection that was immediately at the mercy of social media. Whilst it definitely made an impression and caused the internet to take note, not all reactions were positive, and the lingering sentiment was in opposition to what Gucci’s Alessandro Michele described as the ‘collab of the century’.
However, to judge this logo “hacking” on the product alone would distract from the fact that two of the world’s most influential fashion houses in the world, housed within one of the world’s largest luxury conglomerates, have joined forces. In doing so, they state to the fashion world that all old rules surrounding luxury are out the door. In fact, Gucciaga demonstrated the brands’ realisation that the most powerful marketing tool is to get the world to pay attention, making everyone eagerly wait for the next instagrammable moment.
As time has gone on, it seems Gucciaga walked so Fendace could run. No longer just about logo manipulation and precedence (although, both brands have now adopted a fusion-logo for their Instagram display pictures), this show was different in a number of ways. Firstly, it was more surprising: whilst Gucci and Balenciaga both fall under LVMH, Fendi and Versace are entirely separate houses and thus their joint venture at MFW spoke less to a convenient collaboration, and more to a celebration of Italian luxury fashion. And, despite a potential teaser from Kim Kardashian back in summer and a mysterious ‘save the date’, the collection was almost kept out of the media.
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Jones concurred, saying that they have primarily “done it as friends, and out of respect for each other. It’s never been planned as a commercial thing”. Having the chance to interrogate the Versace archive, he added: “was mind-blowing. There are things I’d never had the chance to see with my own eyes. And when Donatella went to the Fendi archive she picked out things from the same period we were looking at, by chance. Also Donatella has never designed for another brand.”
Moreover, although undoubtedly crafted with the intention of creating a social media storm, this secret swap focused more on the respective lead designers conducting a deep-delve into each brand’s archive and putting their own spin on it. It seemed that both designers managed to understand the other brand’s DNA and design with this understanding and the brands’ respective historical references in mind. The first half incorporated classic looks dug out from deep in the Versace archives, reworked to incorporate Fendi’s distinctive double ‘F’s, whilst the Grecian-style motif was used across bomber jackets, mini dresses and tailored looks.
For the second half, after a logo change on the garden-inspired backdrop, the signature Versace Baroque prints were layered over Fendi’s monogram, and the two logos were splashed across bags, hats, and chunky low-waisted belts. Kate Moss, walking in the same show as her daughter Lila (who made her Versace debut), wore a black minidress with cutout detail under her Versace jacket.
A commonality between the two, and further differentiating this brand-fusion from the rest, both designers were preoccupied with the late nineties and Y2K emblems. Low-waists, micro-crops and shimmering dresses tapped into the Y2K euphoria that other brands such as Blumarine had championed in their fashion week offering a few days prior. As well as forming a reference to the brands’ long standing and successful history, the spirit of the earlier decades was enhanced by Versace’s original it-girl, Kristen McMenamy, opening the show in a nostalgic safety-pin look.
It will be hard to measure the success of the swap until it has been given time for the initial hype, and hate, to die down. Online commenters are already expressing their opinions on the collections, and are unlikely to be influenced by sales or celebrity accolades. However, whatever your opinion, Fendace proved that fashion is still operating on the peripherals of excitement, energy and mystery: and this ‘swap’ harnessed all of those qualities to great effect.