“It’s nice because they were real collaborations, not just an excuse to sell [a] product, no marketing restrictions like when you are dealing with large scale productions.”

There is something to be said about the kind of minds that can command a storied fashion house with grace and ease that leaves others in awe. Those are the minds of people to be remembered; ones of true genius. And every once and again, said species ups the ante, sharing their aura of vision and innovation with young fledglings that they hope to soon see fly.

Silvia Fendi possesses that gift.

In this, the fourth installment of Fendi’s cross-boundary initiative with Design Miami/, Fendi has decided to explore a decidedly different path. For as the poem goes, if two roads diverge in a wood, choose the one less traveled. Having trekked down the road of modern design, engineering and architecture in the past two years, the decision was made to take the alternate route, a route not traveled since the 18th century, not since Fendi’s Palace in Rome, a structure filled with time-specific furnishings and adornments that were recreated in true Silvia Fendi fashion, using current technologies and the vision of budding talents. So, Fendi employed designer Elisa Strozyk and artist Sebastian Neeb, whose work with wood, wood inlays and such ornate explorations have garnered the young duo many accolades.

The task: antique furnishings reminiscent of those punctuating the palace were to be hollowed and reworked using discarded Fendi leathers to morph steadily from wood to leather and back to wood in a way almost undetectable to the human eye. “What’s beautiful about this project,” Fendi said, “is that you have to get very close and touch the pieces to see where they are wood and where they are leather.” She was especially proud of the results, noting that “it’s the first time the designers had used leather in their work.”

Another first was this year’s Fendi takeover of the Design Miami/ Collector’s Lounge, which stayed in step with the installation, only focused on the Piano Nobile flooring which lines the very same palace. Making quirky commentary on the direct translation of the word piano as it applies to said flooring, the young designers used discarded pianos to create oversized sofas within the VIP-only space. Leathers woven like the strips of wood on the original flooring were created as coverings for the structures. “Every piece incorporates wood and leather,” Fendi said, putting extra emphasis on the shared effort that is this creation. A trait Fendi is known for, she’s been building up young talent for ages, recognizing that the Fendi tie-in acts as a strong springboard for them but always nodding to the necessity of their skill to get the job done. “I was walking around the fair and saw the work of someone we worked with three years ago in Milano and they’ve become such stars now,” she said. “I’m so glad to see that. It’s so rewarding to see young designers be so great especially when we were able to give them a platform; they become very linked to our tradition.”

Speaking of tradition, this year Fendi will launch a book documenting the history of what’s most likely one of the most relevant handbags in fashion–the Baguette.

“It’s beautiful, but has been lots of work to put together,” Fendi said. The genius behind this design, Fendi speaks about how hard it was to make a selection for the book, since there are nearly 1,000 different Baguette designs. “There’s also a section about the collaborations we did with artists that nobody knows about because they were made in single pieces. There were [actually] so many artists that worked on the Baguette; they were given a canvas to do what they wanted and it became like a series of secret collaborations that the public will only discover by studying the book.” Her excitement for this is palpable. “It’s nice because they were real collaborations, not just an excuse to sell [a] product, no marketing restrictions like when you are dealing with large scale productions.”

And with that she fills me in on her next project, the one that keeps the Fendi name one of households and that allows for the special treasures to be created. “It’s time to concentrate on the collection,” she said.