Fur is the oldest fabric in the world - long before it became a symbol of status and luxury, it was a symbol of survival. That was the feeling you got on the Fendi catwalk for Autumn/Winter 2012 - albeit some of the most luxurious, status-soaked survival-gear in the world. The first look out told the story, a glossy ponyskin coat with raw-hide breastplate thrown over. It was all about texture, hard luxury but with something beastly about it.
There was a feel of the gladiator to Karl Lagerfeld's Fendi women - for a start, nothing was longer than the knee, and certainly nothing impeded movement as the models marched forcefully out. There were sunray-pleat layers of skirts, like gladiator's tunics, swinging from hips and waists, the latter sometimes restrained with padded belts like medieval armour. That medieval feel was echoed in the rounded, armour-like pinched shoulders on dresses and sweaters, or the hanging sleeves - on a crisp cotton blouse an extra pair fluttered like a cape across the shoulders, while melton-wool coats were sliced into two layers at bolero height that could be worn as coat or cape.
Those were the fabric statements, but as always with Fendi it was the effects in pelt that were extraordinary, the wafer-thin electric-blue crocodile folded into a neat little bustle, or the springbok cut into a curvy suit with a hackle of fur delineating the small of the back. Those women looked less like warriors than a genetically-engineered super-breed, a hybrid of woman and animal. The catwalk was smothered in shagreen that had the Fendi zucca magically intarsia'ed into its skin - maybe that was genetic engineering too. But the stingray is, of course, a fighting fish. Its hide may seem like decoration to us, but it's all about protection, the same as the death's head moth whose wing patterns were intricately pieces into dyed fur coats towards the end. There was a danger-yellow one there too.
Decoration that offers protection - that's how clothes started off too, way back when. There was a hunter-gatherer feel to this Fendi collection, a sense of wildness. It was a collection to go to war in. Oddly, it's the most ancient of instincts, but still feels utterly relevant to our troubled modern times, offering a woman a protective armour to wrap up and feel safe in. That is, after all, the most luxurious feeling of them all.