Carla Fendi, one of five sisters who inherited a small Roman leather goods workshop and together transformed it into a global luxury powerhouse famed for its reimagining of the classic fur coat, died on Monday in Rome. She was 79.
Her death was announced by Fendi. The company said she had been ill but did not specify the cause.
Fendi, now owned by the French luxury group LVMH, is recognized for making fur a contemporary fashion trend rather than merely a wardrobe staple of the upper-class or older consumer (its distinctive double F logo stands for “fun fur”); for its luxe leather “it” bags, like the Baguette; and for its longtime relationship with Karl Lagerfeld, who has designed collections for the house since 1965. The fashion house staged a spectacular show with a plexiglass catwalk across the Trevi fountain last year to celebrate its 90th anniversary, at a reported cost of $2.4 million, and in 2007 it put on a runway show on top of the Great Wall of China — the first fashion show, a spokesman said at the time, to be visible from the moon.
But the house, which at its height was a rare fully female fashion dynasty, had humble origins. Founded in 1925 in Rome by Adele and Edoardo Fendi as a small leather goods store (and secret fur workshop), the business was a home away from home for the couple’s five daughters, Carla, Paola, Anna, Franca and Alda, who grew up on the shop floor playing and sleeping amid its samples and handbags.