Fendi was established in 1925, when husband and wife Edoardo and Adele Fendi opened a leather and fur boutique with its own in-house workshop on Via del Plebiscito in the center of Rome. With business thriving, Edoardo and Adele expanded with another shop on Via Piave in 1932. In 1946, the couple’s children began to join the family business, starting with the eldest, Paola, going to work at the age of fifteen. Soon followed Carla, Anna, France and Alda.
The biggest move in Fendi’s development as a major Italian luxury fashion brand was yet to come: the flagship store. A movie theater on Via Borgognona was about to be torn down and Adele, an active urban preservationist, protested to the owner. The owner replied “Why don’t you buy it, Signora Fendi?” and so she did, providing the perfect space for the fashion house’s flagship. Today, there are five Fendi boutiques on Via Borgognona alone: leather goods, fur, shoes, luggage and ready-to-wear.
In 1965, talented German designer Karl Lagerfeld was recruited to design for Fendi. His most iconic contribution to the brand was creating the inverted FF logo that would soon be known the world over, and forever associated with luxury fashion and Italian design. Next, Lagerfeld, with help from the Fendi sisters, revolutionized the treatment of fur. Fur had, up until this point, been a stiff and heavy material with a life of its own. Lagerfeld and the Fendis turned fur into the lush, soft and sumptuous material that is known in fashion today. This enabled fur to be made into more than just coats for the first time, and to become a fashion lifestyle instead of just an outer garment. In 1966, Fendi presented its first couture fur collection, designed by Lagerfeld. The quintessentially Italian fashion line was brought to the United States by Marvin Traub, president of Bloomingdale’s, once he saw this collection. Today, Fendi is just as paramount a presence in America’s fashion scene as it is in Italy’s. Fendi stores can be found at some of America’s most prestigious addresses, like Fifth Avenue in New York City.
In 1969, Fendi presented a new fur collection, this time ready-to-wear. This collection put to use innovative production techniques and new, modern designs to create lower-priced furs that were still incredibly luxurious and fashion-forward. The Fendi ready-to-wear line was born out of this fur line, as the sisters could not find the right clothes to show under the fur pieces. So, they simply decided to have their own clothes designed. The ready-to-wear line was officially launched in 1977. From that day on, Fendi now created collections of classic, feminine clothing with a sharply fashionable spin.
Just as Fendi’s name was spreading around the world for its exquisite craftsmanship and innovative design in clothing, the brand’s handbags began to storm the accessory scene. The Selleria was rediscovered in the early 1980’s. This line was originally created by Adele after Fendi was first established, and was made entirely by hand. The re-introduction of this line brought an old-world sense of crafstmanship back to fashion accessories. Meanwhile, the sisters also moved their design techniques forward, by working with actually printing and stamping the leather, allowing them to print the FF logos on the bags to create a modern patterned look that had not been available before for handbags. Shoppers fell in love with the luxe, high-quality feel of the leather, and Fendi became known for its fine detail and ever-evolving leather design processes. Fendi still creates the world’s most coveted bags, specifically the baguette model, which is a classic investment for any fashionista’s accessory collection.
By 1985, Fendi was already recognized as more than just a fashion line, but an iconic name in fashion and Italian design that had revolutionized fur, leather and luxury style. Sixty years in business and twenty years working with Karl Lagerfeld was celebrated with a special exhibit at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. The first fashion exhibit ever presented at a national museum in Italy, this milestone proved that the Fendi family were recognized as true artisans of style in their native country.
Fendi has continued to evolve, with its younger, more accessible Fendissime diffusion line, fragrance collections and one of the most iconic lines of handbags and accessories known to fashion. Launched in 1987, Fendissime refreshed the perennially classic Fendi line for a new generation, with trendier designs and lower price points. By 1989, Fendi had already created several very popular women’s fragrances, and the launch of its fragrance for men, Fendi Uomo, put the line on the map for men’s fragrances, as well. The new-found success in the men’s fashion scene lead to the launch of the Fendi Uomo menswear line in 1990. Headed up by Anna Fendi’s daughter, Silvia Venturini, as Creative Director, Fendi Uomo has branched out to include formalwear, business wear, sportswear and accessories for men.
The LVMH group and Prada purchased 51% of Fendi in November of 1999 from the sisters. Carla Fendi is the only sister to remain actively involved with the fashion house, and Karl Lagerfeld continues to design the fur and women’s collections. More recently, Fendi made fashion history in 2007 by staging the first-ever fashion show on the Great Wall of China. 88 models, including not just fashion models but celebrities, as well, walked in this memorable show that proved Fendi is a fashion house simultaneous rich in history yet forever forward-thinking.