Fendi launches fashion line on Seoul floating island

Seoul Fri Jun 3, 2011 5:13am EDT

1 of 2. Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi (R) and CEO of Fendi Michael Burke (2nd R) watch models presenting creations during a fashion show of the Italian fashion house, Fendi on the Floating Island on Han River in Seoul June 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

Seoul (Reuters) - Brushing off controversy over its use of fur, luxury brand Fendi launched its fall and winter fashion line on a large man-made island in Seoul -- to highlight its creativity.

Models showing Fendi's new collection, including the Italian fashion house's signature fur items, strutted down the catwalk as hundreds of celebrities, guests and journalists watched what was only Fendi's second-ever show in Asia.

"We don't do shows just to do shows. We don't do shows to repeat what we showed in Milan," said Fendi CEO Michael Burke of the Thursday event.

"If we're going to do a fashion show, it has to be something noble, innovative, creative and sometimes risky. We like that. There's no creativity without risk."

But Fendi's journey to the launch on the world's largest artificial "floating island," itself unveiled less than a month ago, was far from easy.

The Seoul government, which is in charge of the island in the Han River, demanded that fur be excluded from the show in response to protests from anti-fur activists about this use of a public venue.

Fendi countered that, with only weeks to go, it was too late to change the plans for a show that usually takes months of planning and a substantial budget.

Eventually Fendi introduced a greater variety of items, including bags, shoes and other accessories, in an attempt to diminish the focus on fur.

It also said it would provide scholarships for young South Korean designers and sponsor design contests for college students, with an internship provided to the winners.

"Being able to do this show on the floating island ranks up there as one of the very best and unique and authentic events we've done," Burke said, adding that the show wasn't only about fur.

"Of course, a fashion house like Fendi also does fur, so of course there are going to be some fur pieces... Some people had said it would be a fur show, which was obviously not as you can see," he added.

But animal rights activists were unconvinced, with about a hundred protesters gathering in front of the island.

Chanting anti-fur slogans as models and guests walked into the venue, they also soaked fur items with red paint and displayed a banner with "Fendi" written on it, along with lurid sprays of red paint and a paint-soaked stuffed animal.

"We're furious that Fendi has brought fur into this country and makes people buy them when people abroad have turned away from fur," said activist Park So-yeon.

"We're earnestly hoping that as a global luxury brand, Fendi will develop varied items besides fur."

Fendi is a unit of the French luxury conglomerate LVMH. Its previous Asian show was in 2007, at China's Great Wall.

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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