Contemporary design, with its synthesis of wild creativity and serious technique, holds a similar appeal. Venturini Fendi’s home, part of a family compound in the chic Rome neighborhood of Camilluccia, boasts such pedigreed pieces as a pair of Panton chairs in orange plastic, an oversize Fifties Venini chandelier in ivory Murano glass, and a gilded harp chair by Jorgen Hovelskov. But it wasn’t until 2008, when she met Design Miami founder Ambra Medda, that she considered getting involved in the field. That year she sponsored the fair’s Design Talks, a series of panel discussions, and attended the exhibition for the first time. Some designers were skeptical about such attention from a fashion brand. As Medda remembered, “At first they were like, ‘Oh, Fendi is into design?’”
Venturini Fendi, however, was hooked from the start. A few months later, for Milan Design Week, she and Medda teamed up on an exhibition they called “Craft Punk.” With input from Venturini Fendi, Medda selected 12 leading designers from all over the world and sent them boxes of Fendi materials with which to create. The designers were then installed in makeshift studios in Spazio Fendi, the former garage where the house has its fashion shows, and more than 1,500 visitors a day came to watch them work. “We wanted to make craft feel contemporary and necessary and respected,” Medda explained. “You would find Nacho Carbonell using chicken wire to create installations he covered with leather. Then you’d see this Israeli couple, who go by the name of Raw Edges, creating seating with foam and a new kind of paper. People walked in and just went, ‘Wow.’ We take for granted that things are made, so to see someone welding or carving or embossing is really quite magical.”
In Miami the following December, Venturini Fendi and Medda extended this focus on handmade design to music with “Stereo Craft.” Each evening at 6 p.m., the Design Miami tent came alive with a performance by the band OK Go. “We hired Moritz Waldemeyer, a German tech genius who translates whatever crazy idea you might have into reality,” Medda said. “Silvia accessorized the instruments with different furs, applying the element of craft. Moritz outfitted them with this ingenious technical equipment—the guitars had lasers shooting out.”
It was during her initial visit to Design Miami that Venturini Fendi first met Aranda and Lasch. She was immediately struck by their work.
“I like talent,” Venturini Fendi said of Aranda\Lasch. “And they are very talented.” The duo had spent five years developing a form—an eight-sided quasi-crystalline shape—that, with the help of a computer-based algorithm, could be used as a building block to create new structures, from furniture to buildings. Last summer Fendi funded their participation in the Venice Architecture Biennale, for which they constructed their irregularly shaped bricks out of foam covered with Line-X, a material used in truck-bed linings, and scattered them across the garden and into the foyer of the Italian pavilion. In December, when they brought the show to Miami, the pair added a performance element, using the crystals to assemble 30 new design pieces in front of an audience. “We like to be open about the design process, demystify it in a way,” Aranda said. “It’s about letting people in—letting them see under the hood.”