Silvia Venturini Fendi is wearing her signature look: delicate jewelry, a plain shirt, and cigarette pants – masculine yet demure. She sits, sipping water, on a sofa in an alcove of the stylish Donovan’s Bar in London’s Brown’s Hotel. To the untrained eye, she might be another well-dressed donna enjoying the city. But this is the woman behind the very first It bag – the small shoulder Baguette launched in 1997 and made famous by a certain Carrie Bradshaw. It’s also the woman who created the fashion “waiting list” phenomenon and, more importantly, as the creative director for menswear and accessories, the last member of the Fendi family dynasty to work for the house. For all her accomplishments, Venturini Fendi is exceptionally modest. “I am always unhappy with myself and wonder if I could have done more or could have been better,” she says. Perhaps her quest for self-improvement stems from being raised in a successful, female-strong family. Fendi was established in 1925 by her grandmother Adele Casagrande. The business was then taken under the reign of her five daughters in 1946, who, 19 years later, appointed Karl Lagerfeld as creative director – a role he still holds today. In 2001, Fendi became a multinational luxury fashion brand and part of the LVMH group.
While the brand is steeped in rich history, one of Venturini Fendi’s greatest strengths – although she may not recognize it – is making that heritage relevant today.
Last month, Fendi hosted the FF Reloaded party, an urban event in London’s secret graffiti tunnel Lost Rivers to celebrate the new logo. The venue was plastered with Lagerfeld’s logo illustrations from the 60s to the present day, while street dancers jumped out in custom Fendi ensembles. DJ sets from Disco Smack and Last Night in Paris got the A-list crowd moving. Even Drake made an appearance, taking time to pose for the cameras with Venturini Fendi – now wearing a logo shirt and bag – and her 20-something daughter, Leonetta Luciano Fendi, the unofficial ambassador for the millennial collection.
“After many years of not doing it, we are redoing the logo,” explains Venturini Fendi of the reason behind the party. “It was designed by Karl in 1965 and was very popular in the 80s but then for a long time we didn’t use it in such an evident way.”
The party coincided with the unveiling of an exclusive capsule collection of ready-to-wear and accessories. An ode to the FF print, the collection includes logoed dresses, jackets, and a signature peekaboo bag, all aimed at the millennial market. “We were getting big requests among the younger kids and fashionistas. Logos are so popular among millennials,” the creative director affirms. “The collection celebrates something very dear to us and represents so much of the house’s name.” Lagerfeld designed the original FF logo in just five seconds. Initially intended to be used on the prints and silks that line fur coats – FF stood for “fun fur” – it was suddenly everywhere, from canvas to luggage and shoes. “He had no idea how big the logo would eventually become,” explains Venturini Fendi. “Otherwise he probably would have taken more time to create it, but it just grew in such an organic way.”
While the heritage brand has reworked its logo every decade, its DNA remains the same. “It’s like a guarantee seal,” she explains. “It represents the history of a house of almost 100 years, made of values like tradition, passion, and love.” The passion, of course, derives from the family business. Fendi grew under the matriarchy of Adele and her five daughters – Anna (Venturini Fendi’s mother), Paola, Carla, Franca, and Alda. “In those times it was a very patriarchal society, especially in Italy,” Venturini Fendi explains in her lilting soft Mediterranean accent. “Yet, in my family, I was brought up to feel that being a woman would never hold me back. The boss of our family was my grandmother and that gave me confidence.”
The striking creative director has spoken in the past of spending her childhood in the atelier playing with real clothes rather than dolls, explaining how the empowering yet unusual environment helped shaped her. “It was a beautiful way to grow up, because the women were not only working at their jobs but they were also doing their ‘female roles’ – being mothers. There were lots of children around the work table. There was this powerful mix of work and family. It was a feminine way of dealing with a company.” Perhaps the FF logo should stand for Female First, in honor of those influential sisters? “I like that,” she smiles before reminiscing about growing up around the formidable women who turned the house into an international label. “There were arguments, of course,” she laughs. “It’s the Italian way. But there was also a lot of pressure on them.” By pressure, she is referring to the fact that the women were at the top of their game in a man’s world. “My aunt Paola said, ‘It was a men’s domain, but the moment the men understood what we were doing, it was too late.’” There’s no denying the feminist gene is strong in this family, with Adele’s entrepreneurial spirit still pushing the brand on to greater successes. Long live FF – Female First.
The FF capsule collection is available on Net-A-Porter and in Fendi stores from May 14.