Fendi is a house of extremes: big furs and little handbags, a family business with a worldwide reputation, a chic past and a street-cool future. Established in 1925, the Fendi empire was founded by Adele Fendi from a small leather-goods shop and workroom in Rome, where she and her husband Eduardo worked with private clients. The family business expanded with the opening- of a larger shop in 1946, but it wasn't until the death of Eduardo, eight years later, that the modern Fendi image emerged, when-the family's five daughters injected the little company with some youthful glamour.
After the death of Adele in 1978, each sister adopted a corner of the empire to look after. Paola (born 1931) worked with the furs, Anna (born 1933) the leather goods, Franca (born 1935) the customer relations, Carla (born 1937) the business co-ordination, and Alda (born 1940) the sales. By the end of the '80s, the name of Fendi had become shorthand for jet-set elitist luxury, thanks to its signature furs and instantly recognisable double F logo (designed by Karl Lagerfeld). The politically correct '90s saw the company re-focus on Adele Fendi's traditional leather goods, and so the Baguette bag was re-born and Fendi's star was in the ascendant yet again.
Amid the late '90s' appetite for baroque excess, LVMH and Prada bought a 51 per cent stake in the label, with LVMH eventually becoming the sole partner in 2001. But Fendi is still very much a family business. The future lies with Maria Silvia Venturini Fendi (born 1960, the daughter of Anna Fendi), who created the Fendissime line in 1987 and is now designer of accessories and menswear. Karl Lagerfeld, as chief designer, continues to work with the sisters - as he has done since 1965 - and Maria Silvia.