Designed by Bureau Betak, Fendi’s SS21 haute couture show in Paris explores how to create an engaging visual experience within the bounds of safety guidelines.

In these times of COVID-19, we’re now accustomed to the intrusion of safety screens where none were before, and to funnelling through delineated pathways in spaced-out queues. Take those elements, dial up the glam by about a million per cent, and you have Fendi’s AW21 haute couture show in Paris. Designed by Bureau Betak, it responds to the new demands of the pandemic-plagued climate: how to create an engaging visual experience within the bounds of safety guidelines. Prada has already given us one example, and Fendi’s provides another. Streamed live from Paris’s Palais Brongniart, the show was a first in a few ways. It was artistic director Kim Jones’ first collection for Fendi, his first ever womenswear collection, and the first time the fashion house has presented a spring haute couture show.

Models wove their way through a maze of glass cases, the bird’s eye view of which revealed a grid of Fendi’s signature double-F monograms. Fendi describes the collection as drawing from seemingly diverse inspirations, from the visual language of Bernini’s marbles to Virgina Woolf’s time-travelling, gender-blurring novel Orlando. [It] navigates a unique journey from the British Bloomsbury to Rome’s Galleria Borghese.’ Bureau Betak translated these ideas into a soft and dreamy set that managed to imbue glass with an unlikely warmth. Bookcases were stacked with tomes, and the set was scattered with wildflowers, tussocks and saplings. The neon lighting lining the runway and capping the cases illuminated the parading models while bringing the concept home with a series of ethereal reflections.