Water may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Italian luxury house FENDI, yet water was the theme of the Maison’s installation at this year’s Design Miami that took place in early December. Celebrating the tenth year anniversary of FENDI’s participation at the fair, Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis has created ten unique fountains made out of cast resin, inspired by ten of the brand’s most iconic symbols and motifs. From the emblematic FF logo and the timeless design of the Peekaboo bag, to timeless fur patterns, Marcelis’ ethereal fountains, collectively titled ‘The Shapes of Water’, embody FENDI’s historical, creative and aesthetic legacy while their innovative construction exemplifies the brand’s virtuosity when it comes to the processing of materials.

The Maison’s intimate relationship with water, and in particular the historical fountains of its hometown, Rome, took roots in 1977 when it commissioned writer and director Jacques de Bascher to make a short film to showcase its first ready-to-wear collection. Titled Histoire d’Eau, the film follows Suzy Dyson, a young American tourist visiting Rome, as she explores the city and its fountains, bedecked in the Maison’s creations. The film cemented the Maison’s interest in Rome’s fountains which in 2013 begot theFendi for Fountains initiative that aims to preserve and restore the city’s emblematic fountains. Three years later, to celebrate its 90 years anniversary, FENDI’s runway show, Legends and Fairy Tales, was staged in front of the iconic Trevi Fountain.

Although quite different in shape and function, the ten fountains that Marcelis has designed share an ethereal transparency, a luxurious sensibility, and a colour palette of warm, sensuous tones that turn from golden yellow to bold orange to deep red, reminiscent of Roman skies during sunset in the summer. In Design Miami, these magical qualities were enhanced by the setting: an all-white, luminous space wherein the coloured transparencies and milky translucencies of the polished, cast resin blocks seemed to be illuminated from within.

Displayed on top of travertine plinths, the futuristic aesthetic, evanescent lightness and polished sheen of Marcelis’ cast resin artworks were poetically juxtaposed with the classical connotations, hefty splendour and rich texture of the travertine stone. The choice of travertine was not just for aesthetic purposes though, as it also references FENDI’s Roman headquarters, the 1930s Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, an emblematic neoclassical monument the company took over in 2015. The Palazzo was also the inspiration for one of the project’s fountains, whose matrix of arches and beige colour closely resembles the building’s facades.

Karl Lagerfeld, whose is said to have sketched the FF logo in 5 seconds, is further referenced in Astuccio, a fountain that takes its name from one of the most famous and acclaimed fur patterns which Lagerfeld designed in the 1970s. Characterized by its bold geometry of vertical and diagonal lines, Marcelis has recreated the pattern with two stripped resin panels, a transparent one standing vertically and an orange one slightly inclined, whose hollowed out stripes are accentuated by air bubbles travelling upwards.

John Anthony