At Fendi's Spring 2009 show, models walked the runway with outrageous updos and confectionery-like cocktail dresses, but all eyes were on the new handbag––a roomy satchel that blithely slouched open, offering, to anyone who was looking, a peek inside. The Peekaboo, as it was officially named, became an instant hit. And ten years later, it is a design icon, adored, collected, and passed down––at times rather reluctantly––to the next generation.
In 2016, Fendi established its Made-to-Order program, an invitation-only service that allows core customers to personalize their Peekaboos. This past September, the house hosted an event in New York for VIP clients to meet one-on-one with Fendi’s design team and commission custom bags. The company will offer its second U.S. event this June in Los Angeles.
“This is not just putting your initials on the bag,” says Fendi’s chairman and CEO, Serge Brunschwig. “We are giving clients the ability to design every component.” Of course, experimentation in craftsmanship has long been Fendi’s M.O., beginning even before Karl Lagerfeld came aboard as creative director of women’s wear in 1965 and started shaving, dyeing, treating, and then reassembling fur in thrilling new ways. “There’s an obsession at Fendi with twisting materials and making them different,” says Brunschwig. “It allows for incredible pieces of art.”
With its clean, elegant silhouette, the Peekaboo is the perfect canvas on which to play. “It has this very classical aspect,” says Silvia Venturini Fendi, who designed it as a counter to her other wildly successful creation––and original “It” bag––the Baguette, which launched in 1997. “After the Baguette, every company, even ones that weren’t doing bags, tried to do an It bag––and the market was oversaturated,” recalls Venturini Fendi, who serves as creative director of accessories and menswear at the house her grandparents founded. “So I thought, let’s go back to the old rules of leather-goods makers.”
Built with two compartments, one on each side, that yawn open with a twist of a lock, the Peekaboo begs for an interior that is just as exquisite and interesting as the exterior. With the Made-to-Order service, clients can choose from a wealth of materials in myriad colors from pale-pink mink and emerald python to a glistening charcoal croc, which has been buffed with agate to plump perfection. The top handle can be made from metal or stone; the dividing bar adorned with Swarovski crystals or 18-karat gold, and the clasp set with diamonds or rubies. Additionally, the bag can be beaded, painted, or embroidered with monograms or messages. “Our motto is Nothing Is Impossible,” says Brunschwig. That is, except for a quick turnaround: Creating the bag can take up to five months, depending on its complexity. And while Venturini Fendi asserts that her favorites so far are the more simple ones, Brunschwig is a fan of them all. “Each one is interesting because it includes the passion and energy of the customer,” he says. “Each tells a beautiful story.”