Fendi may have jump-started the past decade's It bag phenomenon with the must-have Baguette, but the brand's luxury roots run deeper than any single trendy design. Started as a fur and leather specialty shop in Rome in 1918 by Adele Casagrande, the business underwent a name change in 1925 when Casagrande married Edoardo Fendi. The couple's five daughters eventually entered the family business, and in 1965, the Fendis hired emerging talent Karl Lagerfeld, then a stylist who had trained under Pierre Balmain and Jean Patou. Shortly thereafter, Lagerfeld designed the famous double-"F" logo which to this day remains an iconic status symbol. (Kanye West once shaved the interlocking letters into his head to attend a Fendi party.)
In 1969, Lagerfeld launched the house's first ready-to-wear fur collection, putting it at the forefront of fur innovation. Treating the material more like a fabric, he reshaped the stiff and heavy traditional coats into lighter, more wearable styles. Fendi's experimentation with pelts continues today, as the house recently sent furs gilded in 24K gold, a first for the industry, down the runway.
In 1977, Fendi debuted womenswear, also designed by Lagerfeld, and throughout the eighties and nineties diversified, expanding into menswear, denim, fragrances, and gifts.
In 1994, Silvia Venturini Fendi took the creative reins of handbag design, scoring several major successes, including the famed Baguette, in that market. In 1999, LVMH and Prada teamed up to buy a 51 percent stake in the business. By 2007, however, Prada, as well as the Fendi family, led by chairman and third-generation family member Carla Fendi, had sold their shares to LVMH—though both Carla and Silvia Fendi remain involved. After 90 years in business, the house is still, according to Style.com's Sarah Mower, "the one and only place to turn for the ne plus ultra of what can be done with fur and leather."
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