Published: 02nd June 2011
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When it comes to family businesses; they donít come much grander than that of the Fendi Empire. The renowned fashion giant has an impressive fashion history that dates back to 1918 when Adele Casagrande opened up her own humble shop in central Romeís Via del Plebiscito, dealing in small leather goods with a fur workshop. The shop had already started to make waves with a reputation for skilled workmanship in bags and the crafting of furs in a post-1st World War society that was trying to get back on its feet but made its real impact when Adele married Edoardo Fendi in 1925 and they decided to use the, now, family name for the shop.

In 1932, they were already prominent in Rome as a quality purveyor of leather and the place to go for fashionable furs but word had begun to spread outside as they were now in a position to expand and open a much larger shop and bigger workspace on the up and coming area of Via Veneta. By 1946, their Eldest daughter Paola (who now commands the entire fur department working with materials, manufacturing, design and her own expert daughter Simona) joined the company at just 15 years old and was soon followed enthusiastically by her 4 sisters Carla (now President), Anna, Franca, and Alda (now Director for all the companies of the Fendi Group).

As women fought for equality in the 1950ís, the Fendi sisters encouraged by their tenacious mother, led the way in demonstrating the creative force of women in the workplace as they brought a raft of innovation and a dynamic new energy to the Fendi brand. As the 60ís took hold, so did the fame of Fendi as more shops opened on Via Borgognona, with Anna creating a merchants association (for which she is now President) with others in the area to preserve the streets authentic integrity and by 1965, Fendi began a relationship that was to define them, when they starting working with Karl Lagerfeld. A young designer making his mark in Paris, Lagerfeldís love of fur mixed with Fendiís known procurement of some of the finest furs available, led to a match made in fur fashion heaven. His master manipulation of fur led to the research of new materials and alongside Paola, they tried new methods in tanning and colours, pleats and patterns, weaving and cuts that inspired a new wave of fur fashion products. These were much lighter and therefore easier and more comfortable to wear, without compromising the inherent benefits of warmth and the sheer quality that Fendiís furs were known to offer.

The double FF logo was born and proved to be a symbol of eminence and style while their progressive approach was drawing in global attention as in 1966; they launched their first couture collection, designed by Lagerfeld (now Creative Director). After international success on the runway and their bags were discovered and went on sale in New York, the end of the 60ís saw Fendi launch its first Ready-to-Wear collection which displayed the full knowledge of their experience in furs and the craftsmanship applied to their reasonably priced collection. It was this collection that gained them a foothold in Florence and saw global buyers lining up to sell their product. The 70ís saw the introduction of waterproof fabrics, canvas and the now traditional colours of black and brown in striped patterns, while the 80ís witnessed the introduction of grained leather, new product lines of accessories and perfumes, plus a celebration of 60 years of success (20 of which were with Lagerfeld) with the first fashion exhibition ever displayed at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome.

Fendi branched out further when its 3rd generation created the independent Fendissime; a young brand that produced furs, accessories and sportswear was headed up by Guido, son of Franca. While the beginning of the 90ís saw fur integrated with materials like silk, cashmere and wool, it also saw Fendiís products coming together successfully in its giant flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York. Menswear and cologne were now added to the growing empire and the Board of Directors also expanded to include new and fashion passionate family members.

Today, Fendi run around 100 boutiques, have 600 points of sale worldwide and 2 direct Fendi stores in New York and its native Rome. Thanks to their consistent, progressive research and love of tradition, they have successfully maintained their reputation and are still revered as the purveyor of craftsmanship and the finest furs around.

IFTF is an independent international federation of national fur trade associations and organisations. Mink Fur and Beaver Fur

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