In a celebration of history and heritage, this new book serves as a love letter from Kim Jones to Bloomsbury and Fendi
“Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that,” writes Virginia Woolf in Orlando. A love letter penned by the acclaimed author in October 1928, the satirical novel was inspired by the family history of Vita Sackville-West, who’s both a friend and lover of the author. A feminist accord and one that rose to great acclaim, the book details Vita’s transition from man to woman as she goes on to live through centuries, thus meeting many names in English literary history.
This love letter has inspired the debut Fendi Couture Spring / Summer 2021 collection designed by Kim Jones, the newly appointed artistic director of womenswear and couture. Derived from his adoration for the Bloomsbury, a term used to describe the English artist and literary movement, the pieces within pull references to both the time-travelling words found in Orlando as well as cues from the Bloomsbury Group – a cohort of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists from the first half of the 20th century, which both Virginia and painter/interior designer Vanessa Bell were part of. The collection therefore pays homage to the warping concept of time and gender found in Orlando, which has now been composed into a new publication titled The Fendi Set.
The book, published by Rizzoli, is an ode to the rich heritage of both Bloomsbury and Fendi, as well as the locations shared between them and the two lovers of Orlando. Consequently, the work involved gives a firm nod to the characteristics of both England and Rome – two significant locations visited in the collection and publication. Documentary and portrait photographer Nikolai von Bismarck has collaborated for the release and, concurrently, has created a series of textural collage-esque imagery that alludes to the archaic style of a Victorian-era photograph album. Paired with diary entries and letters written by members of the Bloomsbury Group – such as the love letter correspondence between Woolf and Sackville-West – it’s a significant pairing that allows its viewers to traverse back in time joyfully and momentarily.
Working with Polaroid, film and Super-8, Nikolai says of his process: “Whether shooting landscapes, interiors or models, I wanted to maintain an ethereal sense of dreaminess, with figures that are occasionally ghostlike and who seem to drift on the page. Sometimes with muted colours to mirror the palette of Duncan Grant and Clive Bell. Sometimes images were dark and moody, textured, layered, soft blurred and sometimes not like photographs at all – images that were above all romantic and true to the characters of the Bloomsbury Group, dark graceful and free.”
Structurally, the book journeys through the hilltops of Southern England and traverses to ancient Rome, before landing finally at the aqueducts of Italy. Two family histories are expelled in unison: the artists of Bloomsbury and the dynasty of Fendi. To reveal this synergy, the book is split intro three sections. The first takes its audience to Sussex and Kent, which are two locations associated with the Bloomsbury Group; they’re also referencing Sackville-West’s ancestral home and the fictional family seat of Orlando. Additionally, Sackville-West later lived with her husband Harold Nicolson in Sissinghurst Castle. The second chapter takes place in Paris as it marks the couture presentation abound with Italian Renaissance references; the third travels to Rome to follow in the steps of Bloomsbury artists who spent time there, including Woolf.
“I wanted a ghostly atmosphere, a dreamlike quality,” states Kim, discussing the book’s unmissable aura. “Orlando is about time travelling and I wanted the work to transience time, to drift between the present, past and future. Nikolai’s photographic language and his exploration of both analogue and other experimental techniques and textures evokes these shifting narratives.”
Other contributors include Tilda Swinton who’s written the preface, as well as Bloomsbury scholar Dr Mark Hussey who’s penned the introduction; Hussey also worked with the archive of Berg Library in New York to curate Woolf’s diaries and letters.
The Fendi Set with photography by Nikolai von Bismarck and text by Kim Jones, Jerry Stafford and Dr. Mark Hussey is published by Rizzoli priced £97.50