THE Fendi story began in 1925 when a young couple, Edoardo and Adele Fendi opened a small handbag shop and fur workshop in Via del Plebiscito in their hometown of Rome.
With World War I over, Italy was experiencing a second industrialisation boom that led to an expanding middle class and rapid growth of the craft business, services and manufacturing sectors.
The business started by the Fendis quickly became renowned for quality bags and furs. For the Roman elite, a trip to “Fendi at the Plebiscito” was tagged with prestige.
In 1946, the second Fendi generation came on board the family business when the founders’ five daughters became famous as the Fendi Sisters. Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla and Alda brought fresh ideas and an exciting new energy with them.
In 1965, the Fendi sisters acquired the services of a rising young designer, Karl Lagerfeld, who would later become one of the fashion world’s most recognisable names.
Fur has traditionally been considered a status symbol among the rich and elite. It had to be large, heavy, valuable and visible (think Sophia Loren smothered under heavy fur coats).
In Fendi and Lagerfeld’s hands, fur became a soft, delicate and light fashion statement. Furs are treated as fabrics that are cut, woven and inlaid stylishly.
Fendi’s iconic double-F logo was also created at this important time when the brand was being revolutionised.
The signature was initially printed on the linings of leather goods but it looked too good to remain hidden, and so it became an unmistakable trademark of Fendi’s range of bags and accessories, making each object a must have.
In 1969, Fendi added a prêt-a-porter (ready-to-wear) collection of furs that were entirely hand-crafted . The label also made its way to an eager Japanese and United States market. In 1977, the ready-to-wear collection was launched.
The 1980s saw Fendi expanding into a luxury range of foulards, ties, gloves, sunglasses, jeans and home furnishing.
Fendi’s 60th anniversary, and the 20th anniversary of collaboration with Lagerfeld, was celebrated in 1985 at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern Art. It was the first time the venerable museum had opened its doors for an event like this.
Even as Fendi travelled overseas, the brand delved into its roots in 1994 by rediscovering its original handcrafted masterpieces.
The brand’s founder, Adele Fendi, had created the technique of making the classic bags by hand. Under the Selleria range, the bags are hand-finished by master saddlers and sold in very limited, numbered series.
Silvia Venturini, daughter of Anna Fendi, has clearly been blessed with the artistic spirit of her grandmother.
The Fendi style department manager created a cult classic in the form of a tiny oblong-shaped bag she named the Baguette in 1997. It’s meant to be carried the way Frenchmen clasp their loaves of bread. Fendi sold over 100,000 Baguettes in the first year alone.
Even after 10 years, the innocuous little Baguette has been reproduced in a variety of looks, with 30 to 40 versions a year, in denim, feather or gemstone-encrusted designs, among others.
In 2004, global luxury goods conglomerate LVMH acquired Fendi and a new era began for the firm.
Fendi celebrated its 80th anniversary last year with the opening of its flagship store, headquarters and studio at the Palazzo Fendi in Rome. Its address at the crossroads of Rome’s most historic and fashionable streets is fitting for one of the Eternal City’s most iconic brands.