Fendi Kim Jones pays tribute to the Bloomsbury Set in a book
Fendi and Kim Jones Pay Tribute to Bloomsbury Set in New Book
The Fendi Set: From Bloomsbury to Borghesepublished by Rizzoli and featuring ethereal imagery by photographer Nikolai von Bismarck, celebrates the dual history of the Roman fashion house and mid-20th century British intellectual group
In 1925 – the year Fendi was founded in Rome – Virginia Woolf’s seminal modernist novel Mrs Dalloway has been published. The text, groundbreaking in form, spanning just one day but oscillating between eras, narrators and sliding in a flood of digressions of conscience, was published by Hogarth Press, the imprint that Woolf ran with her husband Leonard, with a dust jacket designed by Vanessa Bell, Woolf’s painter and interior decorator sister. Britain’s obscenity laws had prevented the duo from first publishing the text – which referenced homosexuality, PTSD and suicide – in 1919.
The date is coincidental, as Fendi womenswear artistic director Kim Jones has long had an affection for Woolf’s literary canon and the creative output of the novelist’s other English artists, writers and intellectuals, who were part of the Bloomsbury Set. Jones, a lifelong bibliophile, collected rare signed and first-edition works and literary and artistic memorabilia related to the band, as well as the furniture and art objects that Bloomsbury Set members Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell have created through Omega workshops based in Fitzrovia. .
Jones’ interest dates back to his teenage years, when he spent his teenage years cycling through the bucolic East Sussex villages of Firle and Rodmell and visiting the bohemian town of Lewes, near Charleston House, home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, which has become a Bloomsbury Set residence and sanctuary.
The Fendi Set: the Fendi family and the Bloomsbury Set meet in print
For his first S/S 2021 Haute Couture collection for Fendi, Jones turned to Woolf’s seminal Orlando, the 1928 novel that sees its main protagonist oscillate between centuries and gender, from an Elizabethan nobleman to an entertaining poet, and has become a seminal text in gender, feminist and transgender studies. Vita Sackville-West, the married aristocrat with whom Woolf had a 20-year romance, inspired the novel. Fendi’s maze-like display set included books and shelves stacked with rare volumes and ephemera linked to the Bloomsbury set, sourced from London’s Peter Harrington Rare Books, which included the first copy of Orlandoonce read by Sackville-West herself.
Now Jones has translated his fascination with the Bloomsbury Set into the pages of a new volume, the Rizzoli-published The Fendi Set: From Bloomsbury to Borghese, which celebrates the dual history of the Roman fashion house and the mid-20th century British intellectual group. The book – ghostly and ethereal in tone – focuses on places that are integral to both, traveling from Charleston House, Knole House and Sissinghurst Castle in England, to a high fashion show in Paris, before landing in the Villa Medici and the Villa Borghese in Rome. .
Along with diary entries, excerpts from Bloomsbury Set members and love letters between Woolf and Sackville-West, the book is layered and pasted with original photographs by Nikolai von Bismarck, who spent 11 months capturing portraits, interiors and landscape images, following in the footsteps of the Bloomsbury Set and the matriarchal Fendi family. Drawing on the modernist connection between the development of new visual techniques and literary traditions, von Bismarck worked with photographic methods employed during the first half of the 20th century; he created muted, layered and blurred images using cameras such as the Bolex Super 8, 180 Polaroid Land Camera and 8×10 Sinar and a variety of printing and dyeing techniques, such as reversal color-dye, slide photography and expired Polaroid film. The figures seem to drift from page to page, the images have a post-Impressionist quality, the photography seems to assimilate the past to the present.
Other stylistic techniques celebrate the heritage of the Bloomsbury set: the Caslon typeface, which Woolf and her husband designed for Hogarth Press, is used throughout the book, and the marbled textures of the volume were created from photographs that von Bismarck took of book covers in Jones’ personal archive and Charleston House library.
For lovers of literature and style, The Fendi Set: From Bloomsbury to Borghese is an essential secular library. In Orlando, female protagonist Lady Orlando holds court with a host of famous writers, including Alexander Pope. With this multi-layered volume, now you can too. §