In 2006, Ilaria Venturini Fendi, the youngest daughter of Anna Fendi (who founded the well-known Italian fashion company FENDI) started her own upcycling accessories brand Carmina Campus at her beautiful farm in the near of Rome, Italy. Scroll through to read the full interview with Ilaria.
You worked as FENDISSIME accessories creative director and FENDI shoe designer in your family firm FENDI. A few years after FENDI was sold you stepped out to become an organic farmer. How came this change? Was it a change?
Fendi: I have always been a nature lover fond of open air life and having my own piece of land was an old dream of mine. At that time the fashion calendars were becoming specially tight and I was starting to regret the idea that collections became old the moment they were just presented. I felt I needed a hideout in the countryside, where I could spend more time with my children and relax over weekends. So I started looking for the right place, which was not supposed to be too big. Instead I found this beautiful farm just outside Northern Rome, really big and a bit neglected, I Casali del Pino, and I fell in love with the place. I realized however that in order to really take care of it I had to make a choice, it was too large to just spend there some weekend. I therefore decided it was the right time to leave my old job and try something different. This decision completely changed my life, because I thought this would end with my experience in fashion.
And then, what motivated you to start your own responsible yet fashionable luxury accessories brand Carmina Campus which is focused on ethical sustainability?
Fendi: I dedicated myself to the farm’s conversion to organic with great enthusiasm and became specially conscious about environmental issues. I could also spend more time on social development programs that I was interested in. But I kept the habit to have my personal bags made by the artisans I knew, often experimenting with discarded materials that sometimes had been conceived for other purposes. So when after some year I started missing my creative job as a designer, I thought this approach might give me the chance to create my independent fashion brand, consistent with the values that in the meantime had entered my life. Wiithout leaving organic agriculture, that is still the activity that takes most of my time, I have now two jobs that inspire and complete each other.
You combine very innovative materials like can bottoms or crown caps from industrial waste with for example leather and fabric remnants and transform it into colorful bags or purses. Where do you get your inspirations from to create those beautiful unique designs?
Fendi: The inspiration comes from the material itself. The designing process is no longer as it used to be, first the idea and then the search for the right material to make it come real. Now I go around searching and storaging materials until the right idea comes on how to utilize them in a bag, an accessory or a piece of furniture.
Where do you source those materials from? And what kind of materials did you choose for the summer 2017 collection?
Fendi: I started with vintage markets, but then I found the warehouses of textile producers, ironmongers, haberdasheries are full of defective or simply out-of-production materials. Later I started visiting the warehouses of industries, from which I source leftovers, scraps, samples and sometimes also industrial waste. This also gives me the chance to create some more serialized collection. It was also the way to collaborate with big brands like Campari, MINI-Bmw, Vibram.
For the summer collection I used waterproof endofline nylon fabrics coming from umbrella producers, drinking straws braided in stripes by an African community, car upholstery decorated by thermo-welded strips of vintage fabrics, just to name few.
Can we tell that each piece of your collection is one of a kind?
Fendi: Yes they mostly are. There is a sort of production seriality- which remains handmade however – for the the Made in Prison line in which the bags are all made with the same kind of material (umbrella fabrics or canvas printed in prison). Sometimes also the collaboration with industries provides us with great quantities of scrap materials tha give us the possibility to produce serialized styles, like with Vibram for example.
Who is producing your products?
Fendi: All my bags are manufactured in Italy in small artisanal hubs, the majority near Rome. The Made in Prison line is made in a number of prison hubs that are part of the network created by our partner Socially Made in Italy.
Do you plan a collaborating project like your past one „Made in Africa“ with the Ethical Fashion Initiative on which also Stella McCartney, Stella Jean, and Vivienne Westwood participated? Can you tell us more about this project?
Fendi: It was a beautiful and rewarding experience to work in Africa with the ITC. Carmina Campus was specially engaged in providing training on site and I myself was going to Africa 4 / 5 times a year. We moved our project to Italy when the ITC program was enlarged and other brands joined in. I thought at that point they were able to go on without my support and I could get involved in something I coud manage better and in a more sustainable way in Italy. If you care about good results you cannot get engaged in too many things. So I started a Made in Prison project with the same philosophy, based on work as a means of rehabilitation. But we still keep in touch with the ITC and I don’t rule out further future collaborations.
What are your goals and plans for the future?
Fendi: I think before being a designer I am a farmer. I am so passionate about it because I think organic agriculture is fondamental for people’s future prospects. So my plans are to continue to develop Carmina Campus and its concept in the world, but also I Casali del Pino which represent my connection with nature and the environment. I feel good and lucky at the idea of being already on the right path and I want to go on this way.
Thank you for the interview Ilaria!
Learn more about Ilaria´s accessories brand CARMINA CAMPUS and her farm
Photos: Luca Briganti.