Fendi’s ‘Hand in Hand’ Exhibition Exalts Italy’s Eminent Artisans

There’s been a lot of trendy talk about “craft” these last several years. But one gets the distinct impression that the hipsterrific denizens of Silver Lake and Brooklyn possess little more than a surface understanding of what that word really and genuinely means.

In Italy, of course, there was never anything but craft; and a new exhibition at the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana in Rome – and also available to view virtually – seeks to clarify the significance of making that the guiding principal of everything that you do. Indeed, Fendi’s Hand in Hand exhibit offers a fascinating view on the program of the same name, created in 2020 as a way for the Italian fashion house to honor the top artisans from different regions of the country. If it even need be said, it is their estimable skills that are so are essential to the production of the signature Baguette handbag, arguably one of the most beloved and enduring fashion accessories ever created.

For Italophiles, the exhibition is a particular thrill, as it acts as a kind of “heritage” travelogue of Fendi-chosen artisans. To wit, in Liguria, there is the medieval filigree silverwork, with more than thirty shops still operating within the town of Campo Ligure; in Trentino Alto Adige (near the Austrian border) it’s peacock feather quillwork embroidery, also known as Federkielstickerei; in Emilia Romagna, the bag features beautiful, hand-cut micro tiles, a tribute to Ravenna’s famous glass and stone mosaics; plus rich floral Venetian brocade from the Veneto, handcrafted floral motifs using the chiacchierino technique from Puglia, Cuoio Artistico Fiorentino leather techniques from Tuscany, and of course, from Lazio (the home province of Fendi), Rome’s ancient jewelry crafting tradition known as granulatura.

The result is a visually breathtaking representation of how, while some see Italians as being stubbornly resistant to “progress,” it is instead this fierce determination to live by a set of standards and principals that ultimately results in clothes, cars, shoes, olive oils and, yes, handbags that reflect an intractable dedication to the art of craftsmanship. In an increasingly disposable society, one which also happens to be resulting in the steady destruction of Earth’s precious environment, Hand in Hand reminds that adherence to traditions may be one of our last genuine hopes for reversing course.

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