The Finer Things
There’s following in your parent’s footsteps and there’s blazing your own trail. Fendi heiress Delfina Delettrez deftly does them both, with surrealist jewels that marry whimsical colors and dark gothic flair.
Story by Angela Cravens / Photography by Lorenzo Pesce
When guests arrived for the Fashion Week presentation at Le Grand Véfour, one of Paris’ oldest and most storied eateries, they were treated to a deliciously surrealist spectacle. Rather than the traditional delicacies for which the restaurant is known, plates throughout the restaurant were decorated with the jewelry of Delfina Delettrez. Baubles in the shape of Dali-esque mouths, pearl necklaces punctuated with grotesque eyes (complete with bloodshot veins to off-set the brilliant blue irises), even a serpent or two were all arranged like enticing canapés.
At once exquisite and cartoonish, if you can imagine that, Delettrez has breathed a moving dose of youthful vigor into a legacy of refined goods. The daughter of French jeweler Bernard Delettrez and Silvia Venturini Fendi, the house’s style department director, she’s continuing the familial legacy on her own terms, in a decidedly modern frame. Those antique plates at Le Grand Véfour? They were among the collection of her grandmother, Anna Fendi Venturini, completing a neat little circle of several generations of Fendi women.
“They’re my first fans,” laughs Delettrez, when asked what her family thinks of the latest collection, aptly titled Delirium. “My family loves it. My grandmother and her sisters wear skulls all the time,” meaning, of course, pieces from her earlier collection, dizzyingly embellished with jeweled skulls in gold and enamel. What the line lacks in restraint, it more than makes up for in imagination. Delettrez’s world is colored by fantasy and the fantastic. Gothic influences are tempered by brilliantly colored animals — rings topped with bejeweled pigs, alligators, and frogs are popular — creating a singular perspective.
The pieces invite play. Many of Delettrez’s latest for the Delirium collection even have movable parts, such as an articulated skeleton worn over the hand. Her new collaboration with eyewear designer Alain Mikli, launching this month, has exaggerated, playful elements, like a spider building a web in the frame of lipstick-red sunglasses. Another pair has a tangle of chains that hangs behind the ears, topped with skulls, ladybugs, and other creepy-crawlies.
Surprisingly, the 21-year-old Delettrez only launched her first collection in October 2007. Though she seems rather destined for it, jewelry design is something that she describes as a happy accident. When she was pregnant with her daughter, she took a break from her studies — being undecided on what exactly she wanted to do — and created a necklace for herself with some loose materials in her father’s workspace one day.
“I like to say I had two births, the baby and the jewelry,” says Delettrez, remembering that formative period. Though her early pieces were eerily gothic, once her daughter came into her life, Delettrez discovered a whimsical voice with the brilliantly-hued animal pieces. Her latest collection is a clever melding of both sides of her personality. Raised in Rome, she also spent much of her childhood in Rio de Janeiro. Delettrez acknowledges that the two cultures contribute to the dual styles.
“You can see the Rome influence in the symbols I use — the religious symbols like skulls, crosses, thorns, snakes. I also like acid, pop colors, and that reminds me of the colors of Brazil.” Though she celebrates the cultural and familial influences that reveal themselves in her work, it was important to Delettrez to create a body of work on her own terms.
“I always had fashion in mind, but I wanted to start with something different. I wanted to detach from my family, so that’s why I started to do jewels.” Her jewels are also bringing her back into the realm of cinema. Director Luca Guadagnino, a friend, recently commissioned her to create a piece to match the eyes of actress Alba Rohrwacher, a plot point in his upcoming Lo Sono L’Amore.
Delettrez also recently wrapped a uniquely personal film collaboration between herself, Guadagnino, and another friend, actress /director, Asia Argento. “I wanted to let people know how all this started,” explains Delettrez of Delfinasia, which debuted at Colette in Paris, and is currently streaming on her website. Dreamily filmed at the family’s home in Ronciglione, Delfinasia shows a pregnant Delettrez at work, and stars her little sister as herself in flashbacks. “It’s beautiful because you can see five generations—my grandmother, my mom, me, [my sister] and my baby in my tummy. It represents all the inspiration.”
Even as her friends influence and inspire the evolution of her work, while the touching connection to family opens up new realms as well, Delettrez maintains an independent streak. So her answer is hardly surprising when asked, “who is this woman you’re designing for, anyway?”