Fendi is no stranger to collaborations with creatives from all fields and generations. One season sees prints derived from the sketches of an award-winning film director while, the next features logos reinterpreted by a digital artist discovered on Instagram. In his sophomore collaboration with Fendi, street culture cognoscente and multi-hyphenate Joshua Vides takes his iconic black marker to the brand’s Pre-Fall ‘20 ready-to-wear and accessories. Together, the Californian-born artist and Silvia Venturini Fendi lift the curtain on their creative relationship, the surreal world they’re building, and why they’ve ventured into uncharted territory.
Your black and white marker style has become an incredible signature of your aesthetic. Did you start out with the intention to build up such an instantly recognisable body of work?
Joshua Vides (JV): I have been drawing all my life and I started a streetwear brand when I turned 19. I was really into streetwear, at that time there were only a handful of brands, and I was like, “I think I can do this” — printing on T-shirts. I tried my hand at that and it turned into the next seven years of my life. My wife plays a big role in everything, and she was like, “You have been drawing this entire time. You are creative.” She’s called me an artist since I [started]; I just wasn’t prepared to call myself that. She asked me to start painting on canvases or objects, and to just paint. I had a background in graffiti, but I was very much square paint and aerosol, and I came up with this concept titled “Reality to Idea”, where basically I bring the surroundings back to their origins [through] a sketch. So, I predominantly work in black and white, and it’s now about two and a half years that it’s just been non-stop.
How did you and Fendi begin the relationship?
JV: Fendi reached out to me via Instagram and at first, I didn’t know [whether] to believe it. Obviously when the email came through, I was like, “Oh, this is real”. That was in 2017. Fendi was to have an activation at Harrods and they wanted to focus on the Peekaboo Bar where you can customise Peekaboo bags and make cool straps. My portion of the conversation was basically creating an environment for the pop-up. No products were spoken about at the beginning, and I was coming in and doing my thing to the walls. Little by little, we got cooler with each other, and talked about customising the Defender, which is the wrap-around protector of the Peekaboo, and I was like “Yes!”.
What attracted you to Joshua’s work, and what do you hope he will bring to the enduring world of Fendi?
Silvia Venturini Fendi (SVF): I thought it was amazing the emotion that he was able to give just using a black marker. You immediately find yourself immersed in a surreal world. To do so much with just a little sign, a mark — I think it’s great. It’s essential, but also rich at the same time. We first collaborated when we did the Peekaboo Bar at the Fendi Caffe at Harrods in London, and then it came naturally to continue because for Joshua, his art is an entire world — I wanted to complete his world by working with those pieces in the collection.
The idea was to rework our pattern that was in the Summer collection, which was colourful – to work on it and get rid of all the colour and minimalise it. The result I think is as rich as the other one, as I said earlier, it’s essential but rich and at the same time, essential and emotional. The idea was to continue to build this Fendi-Joshua world. So we will have a presentation at the Roosevelt Hotel [in Los Angeles] and people will be immersed in the experience more than anything else. It’s more than a collection; it’s a takeover of the hotel with a swimming pool party. We are going to have a lot of fun, that’s for sure.
Tell us about the creative dynamic between the two of you, now that you’ve worked on a couple of projects together.
SVF: There was a nice flow of ideas. [Joshua] came to Rome, we had fun together and we were in a glass room here brainstorming and sketching. It was fast, as when you have good ideas, they come [quickly]. Today, these kinds of long-distance collaborations are really easy because you can WhatsApp every idea and every little change, so basically the collaboration continued, long-distance, [through] messages. Today, technology really helps a lot in sharing creativity.
JV: It was all very organic. I was drawing on paper and honestly Silvia was so relaxed about everything — she was just so open. She was like, “What do you want to do?”. Obviously, she chose some things and she was like, “Oh that’s really cool” or “Nah, let’s pass on that”, but she was just so open. She said, “Let’s get the obvious out of the way, we need a Fendi print”, and suggested the Pequin pattern that they have, and to start with that. So, I got those out with no problem and that’s when they started to bring out prints, bags, and white shoes. They were showing me all these things and my mind was going crazy.
Joshua’s iconic cartoon-like marker style lends a sense of irony to the pieces he works on. Do you think luxury fashion needs a little humour and irony?
SVF: At Fendi, for sure, as things are never as they seem and there is always something new to discover. Each piece always has a surprising element to it. This collection is so detailed, yet also so cartoonish. [It’s as if] you are dressed to go into real life, or into a dream.
The collection is titled California Sky — is there a deeper meaning behind that?
JV: It’s [about] trying to [express] my background as much as possible without overdoing it. [Growing up] in Rialto, everyone gang bangs. Well, not everybody, but there is not a lot to look up to. When we were going over this, the only thing I could ever look up to was the California Sky. And so, how could we incorporate that into the collection? Silvia said, “This is the first time you are going to add colour into something.” To me, if it’s going to be that, then it’s going to be Fendi.
Why do you think it’s important to bring the perspectives and voices of artists into fashion?
SVF: I think these [collaborations] are something that I like to do more and more, because there has always been a confrontation [that comes with it]. Sharing creativity has always been like that. I have been working together with Karl [Lagerfeld] for so many years, and Karl was working with my mother and sisters, so there was always a vocal chorus around creativity. For us, sharing creativity and doing collaborations in an open way is something that is very much our habit. It’s our DNA. I think it’s very much [of] today, also, to have a dialogue between art and fashion, or music and fashion. [For instance], we have been supporting and doing collaborations in design. I like to touch on different aspects, because it’s interesting to see how everything brings you to visual art, and also how fashion can be inspired by that, or [vice versa].
What have you learnt from each other while working on this collaboration together?
SVF: I’ve learnt not to be predictable; to be open to new things and to never look back. I think that being open to other people is a way of exploring new things. There is nothing more interesting than exploring minds. I think this brings in another point of view, and that is enriching.
The California Sky collection will be available at Fendi boutiques from 25 June. This interview was first published in ELLE Singapore’s May 2020 issue.