Fashion Pioneer Carla Fendi Dies at 79

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One of five sisters, who invented the fashion empire Fendi, Carla Fendi died on Monday in Rome at the age of 79. The sisters inherited a small leather goods workshop in Rome and transformed it into a global luxury giant, primarily known for a classic take on the fur coat. The company announced her death, but Fendi did not specify the cause of her illness. Owned by luxury French group LVMH, Fendi is well-known for turning fur into a contemporary fashion trend rather than a perk for the upper-class or older consumer. In addition, the company has maintained a longtime relationship with Karl Lagerfeld, who has been designing collections for the house since 1965.

To celebrate its 90th anniversary last year, the label staged a show with a plexiglass catwalk across the Trevi fountain, for a reported $2.4 million. In 2007, the fashion house organized a runway show on top of the Great Wall of China. A spokesman at the time said it was the first fashion show that could be visible from the moon. However, the brand started from humble origins, with a fully female group leading the dynasty. In 1925, Adele and Edoardo Fendi started a small leather goods store, that doubled as a secret fur shop, in Rome. The daughters, Carla, Paola, Anna, Franca, and Alda grew up in the store’s quiet haven surrounded by samples and handbags. When the brand evolved and the daughters took the fashion world by a storm, it was Carla, born in Rome on July 12, 1937, that was behind the commercial and marketing strategies. As the brand expanded and Hollywood starlets, European royalty, and global celebrities were demanding the iconic Fendi bags, furs, and scarves, the company moved to a location near the Spanish Steps in 1965. Carla, who was also called the General, was the house president and became crucial to the success of the label.

While she had no children herself, her sisters had eleven children between them, who went on to have more than thirty grandchildren. Due to their importance to Italy, the government allowed a special dispensation that their descendants were allowed to keep the maternal surname. However, despite the years of constant success, the sisters decided to sell a controlling stake to LVMH in 2001 to ensure the continued success in the future for the company. After the deal was announced, Karl Lagerfeld, who was often referred to as the sixth Fendi child, said, “Five sisters was too much. And they were not speaking. The husbands were all happy when they sold.” However, even though the label was taken over by a new company, Carla Fendi remained honorary president.

Her husband of 55 years, Candido Speroni, died in 2013. She is survived by her sisters. Anna’s daughter Silvia, and the only family member still actively in the running of the house, said in a phone interview “Aunt Carla was one of the most visionary people I have ever met. She was very ambitious and driven, totally determined to make her small family company an international one in a way that was very rare for women in the ‘60s.” Silvia was at the latest men’s collection show in Milan on Monday, just hours before her aunt passed away. We pay our respects to the Fendi family during this time.

A coffee depended life-form who enjoys thriller novels, creative writing, and wearing heels to feel taller. Shy to acquaintances, presumably obnoxious to friends. Watched the Harry Potter saga more times than I should admit, but then I remember: who cares? Thoroughly enjoy getting dressed up, but love my fuzzy sweatpants. I like to think my life is interesting.

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