You know you’re about to make an intellectual shift toward fashion when the disembodied voice of Virginia Woolf opens a fashion show.
“Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations – of course,” she said in a 1937 BBC clip, the only known surviving recording of the writer’s voice. “For so many centuries they have been on the move, in people’s lips, in their homes, on the streets, in the fields.”
For his first-ever couture show and debut for Fendi, Kim Jones’ sting for spring 2021 was the Bloomsbury Group, the unofficial gathering of forward-thinking and outspoken aesthetic writers, philosophers and artists, named for their stomping grounds in London’s West End. In addition to Woolf, members included the painters Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry, the writer Clive Bell and the economist John Maynard Keynes.
Jones wasn’t trying to achieve a heady, intellectual reach for his very first couture show. He had been fascinated with the collective from a young age in Lewes, a town in East Sussex where Bloomsbury’s extended assistant resided.
“I must have been about 14 when they came on my radar,” Jones said in a statement. “Lewes is quite unconventional, and the Bloomsbury Group and Virginia Woolf were often discussed in my circle of friends.”
One of Jones’ key strengths as a designer is the depth of his artistic passions and his desire to share them. He celebrates the artists who inspire him and weaves them into his work.
His collaborations for Dior Men, where Jones is creative director, have mostly featured a graphic/pop spin. Pairings included KAWS, Kenny Scharf, Raymond Pettibon, Peter Doig and Daniel Arsham. They work because they’re so real; Jones’ fanboy expertise is studied and real. His collaborations with artists fill the entire main collection and not just a capsule of a few pieces. He doesn’t pitch an artist on a project just for PR purposes and buzz.
In his debut as artistic director of womenswear and couture at Fendi, Jones reveled in exploring artistic infatuations that didn’t have to border on menswear or streetwear.
Jones intertwined the narrative of Bloomsbury with that of the Italian house of Fendi by focusing on a little-known historical transition: the frequent and prolific trips of Woolfe and company to Rome and Tuscany, which influenced the group’s diverse output.
The Fendi Set: From Bloomsbury to Borghese documents the exciting couture collection and its creation. It’s an unconventional fashion band.
Part apparition, part artifact, and part meditation on the past, Rizzoli’s 240-page hardcover book compiles facsimiles of Bloomsbury letters and diaries alongside images of Nikolai von Bismarck depicting the show’s models in their catwalk ensembles (including Kate Moss and her daughter) held Lila, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington). Tilda Swinton wrote the foreword, and Bloomsbury scholar Mark Hussey wrote the introduction.
In addition to the portraits, von Bismarck documented Bloomsbury meeting places in a series of landscape and interior photographs. Overall, the images have a timelessly romantic quality, the supermodels are often unrecognizable and can easily be misinterpreted as a glimpse of lost time.
Or as Jones put it in a statement, “I wanted a spooky vibe, a dreamy quality.”
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