‘It’s important to have fun in life’: Silvia Venturini Fendi on Chaos collaboration
Roman brand turns to the London cult label by Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall
Silvia Venturini Fendi is a serial collaborator. In the past, Venturini Fendi, whose grandparents Adele and Edoardo established their eponymous business on Rome’s Via del Plebiscito in 1925, signed up London art ceramist John Booth and Italian creative Nico Vascellari to partner on her menswear collections. For Venturini Fendi, Sue Tilley - a confidant of performance artist Leigh Bowery and subject of a Lucian Freud portrait that broke fine art auction records when it was sold by Christie’s in 2008 - finished whimsical watercolours of everyday items, to be printed on clothing and accessories.
Earlier this year, the Roman brand unveiled its team-up with Joshua Vides; at his studio in California, the artist perfected a sketchbook-like finish to Fendi’s designs. To Venturini Fendi, artistic exchanges have long been a pillar of the brand. “There has always been a strong vocal chorus around creativity throughout Fendi’s history,” she tells me. “For us, sharing this creativity, and collaborations are very much part of our DNA. Our collaborations provide a stimulus to dare, to experiment, to free our creativity and push ourselves beyond established limits.”
For her latest alliance, Venturini Fendi looked closer to home. Unveiled with the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2020 collection during Milan Fashion Week this past February, a selection of small tech accessories including phone covers came courtesy of Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall, the twosome behind London-headquartered Chaos. Seasoned stylists, Stockdale and Lyall have been in the Fendi fold for more than 12 years. “Quality,” is Stockdale’s answer when I ask what attracts her to working with Fendi. “And the heritage of its knowledge with craft. The colours, the sense of humour. You can have a sense of humour if your quality is up there.”
It’s a maxim that can also be applied to Chaos, the business Stockdale and Lyall launched in 2016. The two first met on set many years ago, when Lyall assisted Stockdale on a shoot for British Vogue. From that first project, their partnership flourished. Soon, Stockdale and Lyall travelled the world on magazine commissions - today, Lyall recalls a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express and a cruise, during which they nightcap’ed days shooting in the liner’s karaoke bar - and as prolific consultants to brands including Anya Hindmarch. It was mutual friends who encouraged them to go into production with their own business.
Chaos’ initial offering was centred on customisable phone cases and tech accessories, items answering Stockdale and Lyall’s personal needs. “We couldn’t find phone cases that we loved,” Lyall explains. “And, we had also forever lost our phones. So even before, when we had Blackberries we would take the back off and tie a ribbon to the inside so you could wear it around your neck. We wanted to make these kind of zip lanyards.”
A bestselling success, their monogrammed phone cases come enveloped in soft-grain leather sourced in Italy and have been emblazoned with the initials of customers including Fendi's late artistic director Karl Lagerfeld, Bella Hadid and Victoria Beckham. Customisation has proved to be one of Chaos’s calling cards. Lyall says: “Otherwise, we all have the same and that’s so weird because we spend so much time [trying to] look different to each other but then you are fine to have these generic machines. We have been tricked into that.”
The two have since expanded their offering; among other products, they have dreamt up Chaos T-shirts and travel accessories. A spirited take on luxury goods underscores all. Chaos luggage tags, says Stockdale, “[are] fun and massive and gorgelina. You want them because they’re just wonderful.”
It’s the duo’s solution-driven approach to design that attracted Venturini Fendi. “The brand has a practical attitude which I like, a charismatic spirit with functional designs that I can really connect with,” she says. “I like products with functionality and mechanisms. I like the idea of giving a purpose to things, which is what Chaos is all about.”
Much has changed since the original unveiling of Venturini Fendi’s AW20 designs last February. With “from the boudoir to the boardroom” its catchline, the collection comprises strong-shouldered tailoring, two-piece suits and great coats. These the designer contrasted with shapes, details and fabrications borrowed from lingerie. Then, Chaos’ additions struck an equipment-like tone, with Venturini Fendi’s muses - models Karen Elson, Liya Kebede and Jacquetta Wheeler among them - suited and accessorised to go out and thrive. Bella Hadid appeared on the show’s curving pink runway in a black leather coat, a gold metal Fendi x Chaos AirPods case and matching lighter holder fitted to a belt fastened tightly around the model’s waist.
Both the AirPods case and lighter holder are now available to purchase; instead of encouraging exploration, both items remind us of the rising importance of technology during homebound months.
Jewel-like in size and use, this season’s Fendi x Chaos designs are like semaphore for the accessories of Old Hollywood. Emblazoned with Fendi’s escutcheon-like logo, smartwatch and AirPod cases or phone covers are fashioned from gold-tone metal polished to a high gloss. There is a tactility to Stockdale and Lyall’s creations. “People touch my laptop quite a lot! It’s like a pet, I love it,” Lyall says of her fluffy sheepskin-inlaid laptop cover. Elsewhere, a phone flip-cover matches soft black nappa leather with a golden metal chain handle that is cool to the touch. Recalling glamorous evening bags last spotted on the silver screen, a phone pouch is crafted from rippling chainmail.
“I think it is important to have fun in everyday life; there is a big sense of humour and irony at Fendi,” says Venturini Fendi. “We like to keep a balance between integrity and humour, as fashion has to be inspirational whilst also with purpose.” Balancing practicality and pleasure, it’s a sentiment Stockdale and Lyall share and concretise in designs such as a Fendi x Chaos touchscreen pen, which moonlights as an earring, and a quartet of metal shot glasses transported in a pink leather holder that can be clipped to belts or bag handles. “It can be for tequila, or ginger shots!” Lyall exclaims. “Either way, it works.”
Back in Rome, Venturini Fendi ponders her many successful collaborations, and their impact on the business her family established three generations ago. She says: “There is nothing more inspiring than exploring minds - whether to have a dialogue between art and fashion, or even music and fashion, it brings in another point of view which can be so enriching. It’s always interesting to see how they interpret the world of Fendi.”