Fendi and Maria Pergay

by Matthew Bedard

Luxury Constructive Frameworks
Silvia Venturini Fendi and I are eating breakfast at the Standard Spa Hotel overlooking Miami Beach. It’s a cool and sunny day in December. “I have been fascinated by Maria Pergay’s work,” she tells me. “A few years ago, I [had] the chance to meet her at an art gallery during an opening of her new works. She said—with some hesitation—that she knew nothing about fashion. I told [her] she doesn’t need to know anything about fashion.”

Fendi sought Parisian Maria Pergay for the work in which she is an expert: furniture design.

“I was very interested in the approach and methodology of her design work,” Fendi explains. “As we were starting to envision the renovation of the Paris store a few months later, I invited her to come to Rome to have further discussions and to exchange ideas.”

The birth of the Pergay collaboration, Fendi reveals, resulted in three unique pieces—a bronze and chestnut wood coffee table, a bronze feuillage of a wood and polychrome-brushed steel window landscape, and a screen of a stainless steel treelike sculpture—that anchored the Avenue Montaigne’s flagship store that reopened in July 2013.

“Fendi was a family company for many decades,” the designer notes, “and so we wanted to treat the stores like a part of a family house or an apartment where you would have special objects, whether you [collect] or you have them made. We started our collaboration with just one item, but it ended up with Pergay decorating the entire section of the store.” This expansion seems apt, considering, as Fendi explains, “Maria has a very strong vision. In the ’50s, she was the first to experiment with steel, a material at the time used in industrial production by male workers. In Pergay’s hands, steel becomes a sensual material rather than harsh and hard. It is the same process that the women of my family had been doing by subverting the rules with furs.  Linings were taken out, furs were dyed in colors, and treated in the same manner as silk, wool or crepe.” Steel and fur are, arguably, the signature materials for both designers, though neither is limited.

Pergay further transforms the hard-edged steel into high-end luxury by incorporating the suppleness of soft leathers into her designs. The juxtaposition of the two designers harmonizes in the simple Pouf Goéland sofa, made with sumptuous leathers and fine furs combined with stainless steel, and again in the limited edition Chaise Lion—a steel-frame chair augmented with soft touches of lion-pattern fox fur—designed for the Metamorphosis exhibition for Design Miami 2013.

The partnership with Maria Pergay highlights a perfect union: an aesthetic vision coupled with a concentration on the mastery of materials and the devotion to handicraft.

“Sometimes in our fashion, you may see a dress that you think is made of silk velvet but in reality the dress is made of sheared mink,” Fendi says. “You have to touch the dress to be surprised by what it is really made of. The source of creativity is the same [with Pergay]. The project that we have for Miami Design furthers this idea: the transformation of [one] particular material into another.”

Silvia Venturini Fendi shifts gears: “I think that the amount of things that we have don’t make us more happy. People are more conscious of not just how fashion or bags are made but how foods are grown. So in a way it’s not just craftsmanship for fashion and accessories that are important. People want to know so they can judge and choose what to consume.” She pauses. “A lot of people don’t really understand luxury products and the amount of work and skills to fabricate a bag. Luxury isn’t about just price.” Here we’ll meekly offer a constructive framework for the rest: Details, the devil in.


Photographer: Robert Nethery for Artlistparis.com. Style Director: Long Nguyen. Photography Assistant: Johnny Knapp.