There's always a tasty exhibition or two to check out in Milan and Paris. They also conveniently open during the hub hub of fashion week evenings. Fendi's Making Dreams month long exhibition just opened at the stylised 1940s Cinema Manzoni and it was great to immerse myself into a space that would have eluded me otherwise. The cinema itself was impressive enough all by itself with its inferno red interior, surreal ceiling frescos and dramatic fixtures. It was the perfect venue to showcase Fendi’s relationship with the film world, something which isn't immediately apparent until you start reeling off the films that Fendi have contributed their furs too.
They are cinema moments which are throwaway either. Witness Silvana Mangano swanking it up in plush furs in Luchino Visconti’s The Conversation Piece, which Fendi have restored to digital HD glory. Or Michelle Pfeiffer in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, Marisa Berenson in Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love, and probably more significant to my generation of fash-lovers, Gwyneth Paltrow in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums - all seminal films in their own right where the furs are key character attributes. They’re all presented in the Cinema Manzoni, as an industrial glass exhibition path has been built over the existing red plush seating and a mish-mash of architectural theme park-esque interventions house the furs accompanied by film clips. The co-curators Patrick Kinmouth and Antonio Manfrea took it one step further to ensure people could see these furs in motion, by making a short film on set at the Cinecittà studios, with panoramic glimpses of old sets from Cleopatra and Gangs of New York.
The final ode to Fendi’s film fur exploits sees the craft of fur making projected onto a blank canvas white coat, with Fendi’s AW 13 furry bag bugs raining down on us from the ceiling, capturing our imagination and also instilling the unnatural desire within me to cover a bag with Fendi furries. It's a particularly niche subject that Fendi have picked up on and yet Kinmouth and Monfreda, with their brilliant exhibition design pedigree having designed the stunning Valentino a Roma exhibition in 2007, and yet they really drew you in to those films through the costume fur pieces. Regardless of the politics of fur (Fendi does at least technically push the material to its outer limits as seen in their latest S/S 14 collection), there's no denying what power it brings to characters on film.
For a piece on Dazed Digital, I interviewed Kinmouth, co-curator of the exhibition, about making this Fendi film connection work.
How did you approach the theme - it's quite a unique way of looking at the relationship between fashion and film by focusing on Fendi's furs?
Patrick Kinmonth: It all started when Fendi decided to restore Conversation Piece by Visconti. We had this conversation with Pietro Beccari and Silvia Fendi (owners of Fendi), where Ms. Fendi said, "We have done more than twenty movies." Nobody really knows that. Fendi have dressed the films of Visconti, Scorsese and the James Bond film Never Say Never. So we said, let's investigate this as an exhibition to see what happens. It reveals the DNA of this house; it's being made really clear for the first time.
How did you come up with the design of these different interventions for the exhibition space?
Patrick Kinmouth: There were different architectural ideas coming together. I wanted to emphasise the idea of connection. It was important that the structures wouldn't be claustrophobic. There would be lots of vistas through to other areas and you would get this layering of cinematic impressions. For instance you can see through this replica of the Colosseo Quadrato in Rome to the amphitheatre. It's funny; it turns out that Fendi will be moving their headquarters to Rome in 2015.
How do you find solutions to bring something like fur to life?
Patrick Kinmonth: It is the first provocation of being a fashion designer that works exhibitions: how do you solve this relationship. This [exhibition] is as far as we've ever been able to push the moving image and the material itself. It's a strong direct relationship; you can really experience the fur. It's that magic thing for example, here's Madonna in Evita and here is the very piece she wore - it's so satisfying, to see the film come to life through the piece.
Has technology affected the way you approach an exhibition?
Patrick Kinmonth: This technology is so simple for us to work with; one can use them in a decorative and architectonic way. The moving on of technology makes a lot of things possible, as you see in the final part of the show with the projections.
Do you have a favourite instance where Fendi furs appear on film?
Patrick Kinmonth: In terms of fashion, The Royal Tenenbaums is the strongest statement. When you watch the film, you can see why there's such a cult with the way Margot Tenenbaum looks. The contrast between the simplicity of her and the luxuriousness of the coat is amazing.
Fur makes for memorable fashion moments because it's such a dramatic statement in itself.
Patrick Kinmonth: In the short film we made at the Cinecittà, where we try and show the furs in motion, fur is the protagonist. Fur is almost a character and there's almost no other material that can do that. We all know it's a controversial material and it provokes a lot of extreme reactions] but because of that it's also very powerful and highly charged. A woman or a man in a fur coat is always going to have dramatic possibilities particularly in the movies.
Edited in parts and originally published on Dazed Digital