Italian design firm
Established: as a leather and fur workshop by Adele Casagrande (1897-1978), Rome, 1918; renamed Fendi with her marriage to Edoardo Fendi, 1925 (died, 1954); current principals include daughters Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla, Alda, their husbands, and children.
Company History: Firm designs leather and fur clothing, accessories, ready-to-wear, knitwear, beachwear, eyewear, watches, and more; Selleria handbags and accessories launched, 1925; Karl Lagerfeld began collaborating on designs, 1962; introduced first fragrance, 1988; launched bridge line, 1990; licensed jewelry line, 1991; signed licensing deal with Japan's Naigai Co. Ltd., 1994; Selleria accessories line reintroduced, 1996; buyout from Prada and LVMH, 1999; flagship store opened in Paris, 2001; initial public offering planned, 2002; fragrances include Fendi Uomo, 1988; Fendi Classic, reissued; Theorema and Life Essence, 1998. Awards: National Italian American Foundation award to Paola Fendi, 1990. Company Address: Fendi Paola e S.lle S.A.S., Via Borgognona 7, 00187 Rome, Italy.
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Like many Italian firms producing luxury goods, the Fendi company is a family dynasty owing a great deal of its success to the strong blood links comprising an intrinsic part of the business. Fendi is unique in that it has been run not by male members of the family (of
Although Fendi produces a ready-to-wear sports line, the name is probably best known in the fashion arena for its dramatic fur collections, which have been designed by Karl Lagerfeld since 1962. It has been the company's relationship with Lagerfeld that brought the Fendi name to the attention of the fashion press, where it has since remained. Lagerfeld was also responsible for designing the double-F griffe that is almost as well recognized among the fashion cognoscenti as the double-C and double-G symbols of Chanel and Gucci.
Lagerfeld's innovative treatment of fur was both witty and, at times, shocking and has kept the Fendi company at the forefront of this particular field. In Lagerfeld's capable hands, real fur took on the appearance of fake fur; having been perforated with thousands of tiny holes to make the coats lighter to wear and printed to look like damask and other similar fabrics. Denim coats have been lined with mink by Lagerfeld, who also employed unorthodox animal skins such as squirrel and ferret in his creations. More recently, Lagerfeld covered an entire fur coat with woven mesh and created completely reversible fur coats as his stand against the antifur movement, which created great problems for the trade. Another design he produced for autumn-winter 1993-94 consisted of a small zipped bag that unfolded into a calf-length fur coat.
Whatever one's personal beliefs regarding the wearing of animal furs, the partnership of Karl Lagerfeld and Fendi undoubtedly broke barriers in the field of fur design. In Italy, fur sales have continued to constitute a major part of the company's business—where the Fendi sisters claim to have changed the age-old tradition of fur as being a status symbol to being a covetable high-fashion garment.
Like many luxury goods companies, Fendi has capitalized upon its name with the usual plethora of accessories, gloves, lighters, pens, glasses, and fragances that have become a natural progression for a well-recognized label. The new millennium found Fendi at the forefront of fashion buzz after the 1999 buyout by Prada-LVMH. A year later, insider undercurrent predicted a shift of Jil Sander from Prada to Fendi following the resignation of Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli in January. The extended Fendi family posed for photos in Rome in February to announce plans to go public by 2002.
Amid money talk, collectors of chicery clutched Fendi's next-to-nothing baguette purse, which found its way under the elbows of the glitterati and started an avalanche of knockoffs. Showrooms were filled with women ogling Fendi's sheared mink, a new breath of luxury. In August 2000, the death of Luigi Formilli, husband of Franca Fendi, shook the Fendi fashion house. He had dedicated himself for four decades to production and distribution of the company's fashion and leather goods. His energetic promotion helped establish Fendi at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. At the time, two of his and Franca's three sons, Guido and Andrea, were working at Fendi, while daughter Federica directed the Fendissime line.
Fendi moved steadily into challenging opportunities, including Japan, near-virgin territory for Italian luxe. In March 2001 the company opened its first freestanding store, a 6,000-square-foot Paris headquarters at 24 Rue François Premier. While reestablishing Paris as fashion's luxury capital, the new store bolstered brand recognition with a full line of accessories, shoes, luggage, ready-to-wear, and a fur line heavily tinged with mink. To Women's Wear Daily, president Carla Fendi confided, "This first store is a very significant step for Fendi. Paris is a very important place. Its creativity is very stimulating because it is home to fashion labels from all over the word with a well-informed public."
updated by Mary EllenSnodgrass