“Orlando, to whom fortune had given every gift, had only to open a book for the whole vast accumulation to turn to mist. So it was, and Orlando would sit by himself, reading.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Raised between the continent of Africa (in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Botswana), London and Sussex, Kim Jones’ personal biography is inexorably interlinked – both by proximity and fascination – with the spirit of the Bloomsbury Group. From an upbringing spent a short distance from Virginia Woolf ’s home, Monk’s House, to after-school trips to sketch from the frescoes and furnishings which decorate the group’s communal habitat of Charleston Farmhouse, the spirit of Bloomsbury remained ever-present throughout Jones’ childhood, and inspired his most formative years.
The relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West sits at the heart of the collection – both of books, and Fendi Couture. After falling in love with one another in 1922, only years before Fendi itself was founded, it was Sackville-West who went on to inspire Woolf ’s Orlando: the time-travelling, binary-blurring masterpiece which her son later referred to as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which [Virginia] explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.”
Within the exhibition sits the first ever copy of Orlando read by Sackville-West, specially bound with her initials stamped in gold and inscribed by Woolf: “Mrs Harold Nicolson is the ‘Orlando’ of Miss Rebecca West’s remarkable book of that name.” Their love letters to one another, since collated, published, and now read aloud by Fendi friends and family throughout Max Richter’s composition for the show, document Sackville-West’s reflections thus on the text: “I can’t say anything except that I am completely dazzled, bewitched, enchanted, under a spell.”