She is obsessed with art, furs, and the human body. Her distinctive, handmade jewellery is a fusion of luxury and surrealism, sold in places like Colette and Saks Fifth Avenue, and her pieces are worn by the likes of Madonna, Catherine Deneuve, and Beyoncé. A fourth generation Fendi, Delfina Delettrez is considered one of the most stylish women in Italy, but with fashion in her DNA, that hardly comes as a surprise. Raised between Italy, Brazil, and France, the daughter of Silvia Venturini Fendi studied costume design, only to realise that jewellery was her true passion. She created her eponymous label in 2007, and since then she has managed to build a unique brand that speaks to the heart of bold women seeking original, statement pieces. We had the pleasure of talking to her about her childhood years, her fascination with insects, and her love of precious stones.
You recently did a capsule collection for Yoox, called Frozen Garden. Can you tell us about the project? What kind of woman lives in such a garden?
"Frozen Garden" is a small universe where insects and flowers seem to be “frozen” in space and time. Floral forms and insects encased in ice-like crystalline resin allow us to approach the pieces from an entomologist's point of view: It captures them but at the same time it works as a magnifying glass, as if we were looking at fossils from the future. "Frozen Garden" women are intelligent, love irony, and they are not afraid of reinventing themselves and playing with the parameters of beauty and elegance. They know how to become girls again, wearing flowers as jewels.
The concept of the Frozen Garden feels a bit like a fairy tale... do you draw inspiration from them? Are they something that excites your imagination?
I love fairy tales, especially those of the Grimm brothers that I often read to my daughter. They make your imagination fly through the metaphors they use to explain life.
It seems that bugs fascinate you, calling them 'nature's little robots' at some point. What is it that you find attractive about them?
They actually repel me, but we all know that in our subconscious what scares us is what attracts us the most. I am attracted by their movements, their acid and iridescent colours… also by the behaviours some of the insects have; some of them are cruel, some play a seduction game with flowers, others have a sort of robotic behaviour like little soldiers.
Could you tell us about your design process in general? Do you start with a single piece or do you try to envision a complete collection?
I start with an inspiration that can come from a dream, a metal, or a stone with a strange new cut. Something that's constant is that I always start with a question: What do I need to communicate? Sometimes the answer is a whole collection; sometimes it's just one piece around which I create the story I want to tell. During the creative process, I always follow my instinct.
What are your favourite materials? Do you find yourself obsessing over something, let's say a precious stone, for certain periods?
I am attracted by strange materials, materials that I cannot define at first sight what they are made of or where they come from. They can be unique, artificial or natural. I am now obsessed with coloured marbles. They have an almost futuristic vibe; they make you feel like you are watching the view from the top of another planet. It's the same futuristic vibe that I see in resin, a material that I love!
You are also a firm believer of the energy that precious stones carry. Are there any examples in the way you use them?
I love diamonds; they have the power to break spells or reveal the truth. For the ancient Greeks and Romans they were the tears of the gods and the fragments of falling stars. Personally, I use them often because of these meanings. Malachite symbolises strength and intelligence. I used it for a special piece for a person whom I appreciate a lot mainly because of these two talents. Opals seem to gift prophetic powers to the one who wears it. Rubies give strength, energy, and vitality. I love wearing different stones depending on the energy I feel around me.
As you initially wanted to design costumes for films, what made you switch to jewellery?
My obsessive quest for detail.
It has been said that your designs "appeal to a woman who likes her jewellery to make a statement". Do you agree with this?
My jewellery is for women who love to surprise with details, who love to wear pieces that can become the subject of a conversation at a dinner party. They also know how to reinvent their style from time to time using a great sense of humour.
You've always loved Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and Jean Cocteau. What is your relationship with art and how does it inspire you?
Art inspires me in every form. It can create a little inner revolution; it makes you stop and think. I usually don't like to know the exact thought process behind a work of art. I'm more visual, fast and instinctive — I like to be left with my own interpretation. Of course, I am fascinated by surreal art, there are no boundaries there and there is so much movement… I like its freedom, the same freedom I have in my work. The only rule in art is to not have one!
How has growing up in Brazil and Italy affected your perception about fashion and design?
Brazil, with its wild nature, has inspired me to use acid and pop colours that come directly from its tropical environment. Rome, on the other hand, is a city much more formal but full of charm and history. It offers a constant surprise; you can walk by the same street or square countless times and you will always manage to discover something, a small detail, that has probably already been there for hundreds of years. It's a city of infinite beauty.
What's your strongest childhood memory?
Playing in my mother's closet when I stayed home because I was feeling 'sick.’ I could not resist not touching and trying on all of her clothes.
Did you ever feel that the name Fendi came with great expectations or even restrictions in what you were going to do in your professional life?
I felt that my background gave me the opportunity to have a very sane and clear approach to what I was going to face by starting my own brand. I knew it was about hard work, sacrifices, and passion.
How has your daughter changed your everyday life and the way you see fashion?
I see it more as a mission now, for her as well. I like the fact that both my daughter and my brand were born on the same year and I love seeing them grow together. It gives a lot of security to her to see her mother freely moving and expressing herself, and I’m sure this will help her find her own creative path with less pressure. It is fair that she understands work as a passion, it is a duty but also something fun. From a personal side, being a mother at a young age makes you forget about selfishness. She is more than a daughter; she is a sister, a best friend. And I want to be one of those mothers who with just one look can make you behave right.
When it comes to personal style, you are considered one of the best-dressed Italian women. Do you have any rules in the way you dress?
I don't follow trends, I follow my instinct and my mood. The only thing I discovered about me is that when I have a 'grey' mood I balance it by wearing lots of colour. The opposite happens when I feel good, as I usually go for darker tones.
What are the most treasured items in your wardrobe?
Well, all of my Fendi furs, contemporary and old. I have an obsession with fur. From classic designs to the more modern, pop-coloured ones, furs make me feel strong. There is a close link between precious stones and fur: they are both primitive and powerful. Sometimes I like to wear crazy, flamboyant furs that make you feel like an exotic bird, and I enhance this aspect by adding a bit of colourful, pop makeup in my eyes.
How important is jewellery in your everyday wardrobe? What kind of pieces do you go for?
They are the final touch that balances my outfit. Sometimes even a small earring can make you look overdressed. I usually go for piercing rings all stacked together, or sometimes I select a "star piece" and build my outfit around it. I don't prefer a lot of bangles or tons of chains; I am more sharp and minimal with jewellery.
How do you see Italy's fashion industry evolving since the financial crisis started?
Those who continued on the road of excellence, craftsmanship, attention to detail, and those who innovated while respecting the dictates of the "Made in Italy" principle, are managing to overcome the difficulties. "Made in Italy" is our history, our present and our future, definitely.
If you were to expand your brand, what would you choose to do next? Are you interested in interior design for example?
Who knows… ;)