Tuesday, September 20, 2022

How Delfina Delettrez Fendi Created Fendi’s First-Ever High-Jewelry Line

The following afternoon, Delfina is back at Palais Brongniart. The show has just finished, and the backstage bustle has begun to quell following a rush of editors, celebrities, and photogs ushered in to congratulate Jones. Fendi worldwide private client relations director Gabriella Moncada di Paternò arranges a photo op for friends of the house Steve and Marjorie Harvey. And as Winnie Harlow joins the three for a picture, a postshow press release lands in scores of fashion industry inboxes extolling Fendi’s debut high-jewelry designs. For all the pomp and circumstance that’s happening a level below her, though, Delfina is decidedly calm. She has a few minutes to spare before gathering with her family and the Fendi team to watch a playback of the show, a long-standing tradition. Today, she’s in a version of the flowy pink sleeveless dress that just appeared on the runway.

“When I was a child, my mom never allowed me to wear pink,” she tells me. “I was always wearing brown, gray, blue, black. So now, every time I wear pink, I feel like I’m doing something wrong.” Looking back, she wonders if the rule began with her great-grandmother Adele. “Maybe for my great-grandmother, it was a way to prepare her five daughters for a world that was changing but still a world that was male-oriented. It was a way to find their space and their voice in a world that was led by men.” (One of those daughters, Anna, is Silvia’s mother and Delfina’s grandmother.)

Growing up a Fendi was “fantastic,” Delfina says. “You have the pros and the cons, okay? We have to be honest. But [it was] fantastic. We are a very united family.” Every Sunday throughout her childhood and teens, the Fendis would gather for lunch and inevitably “end up talking about work, because this is what happens when you work in the family,” she says. These lunches, she continues, were very democratic. “They weren’t asking us [children] to step out of the room. They were allowing us to hear, to observe, to learn, and also to participate, with the only rule, which was to have a point of view; to have something to say.”

Delfina, with her grandmother Anna Fendi and her mother, Silvia Venturini Fendi, sits front row at the Valentino Haute Couture fall-winter 2022 show in Rome.WIREIMAGE.

At 18, Delfina entered Italian drama school Accademia Silvio d’Amico to study costume design. “They were the most intense six months of my life,” she says. Though she didn’t have a passion for being onstage, she was required to study acting. Being pushed out of her comfort zone “was like doing therapy every day,” but it was also physically taxing. So much so that when, at 19, she found out she was expecting her first child, she had to leave. Still, the experience was enriching in that it affirmed her ambitions were genuine. “It really made me understand that I wanted to go back home.” Home being fashion, but specifically jewelry design, which she found herself drawn to.

“When I started being interested in jewelry, in wearing jewelry, every time I wore something, I felt it didn’t belong to my energy, to my aesthetic, to my generation,” she says. Looking to fill that sartorial void, she launched the Delfina Delettrez fashion and fine-jewelry brand in 2007. “I started making jewelry for many reasons, but I’m sure one of the reasons was the fact that it was, let’s say, a category that wasn’t touched by Fendi. So it was a way to walk with my own legs.” Handmade in Rome, her range includes an anatomical collection—marked by bejeweled eyes and lips—and she’s among designers who helped popularize the now pervasive single-statement-earring trend. As her website notes, she’s drawn to “rendering the ordinary, extraordinary.” To that end, she’s released gold-and-pearl earrings designed to encircle earbuds, and a functional sterling silver ice cream cone. “Every time I create something I ask…Is it worth working on six months?… Is it new enough?… Does it exist?… Would I wear it? Every new piece, it’s really a personal need.”

Some of her most ambitious designs to date, the Fendi Flavus collection (named to invoke the Latin term signifying yellow or blond in ancient Rome), sold within hours of showing on the runway. The morning after the Fendi couture show, at Delfina’s first haute joaillerie appointment, an undisclosed house client bought all three pieces.

“Oh, it was such an emotion,” Delfina says of presenting and selling the pieces when we speak two weeks later over Zoom. The satisfaction in her voice is palpable, but her tone is hushed. On a whim, Delfina and her partner of eight years—with whom she shares four-year-old twin sons—took a trip to a region of Southern Italy. “I can’t speak very loudly, as I’m in an antique medieval, let’s say, village,” she says. “I am in Abruzzo, living as the Medicis used to live, so I’m basically living two days without any air conditioning, without any artificial light, and it’s just beautiful.”

It’s a stark contrast to her busy life in Rome, where she’s been privy to the high-energy trappings of luxury fashion since birth. “To me, at the beginning, growing up in my family, my family looked to me very normal,” she says. “I started understanding that there was something extraordinary by looking at my friends’ reactions,” she adds, noting that her playdates often took place at the Fendi studio as opposed to her home. “Of course, at that age, you don’t want to be that extraordinary because you kind of feel that you want to be normal.”

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