Silvia Fendi

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 November, 2014, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 November, 2014, 5:26pm

In town for the Fendi Un Art Autre exhibition at Landmark Atrium, the Fendi scion talks about working with Karl Lagerfeld, growing up in a luxury dynasty and the effects of globalisation

"For me, it all began with being born into a family like Fendi. My destiny was to breathe fashion from the first day of my life. As a young girl, I was always in the atelier. It was not the same for my sisters or my cousin, so I probably had it written in my DNA.

I was five years old when Karl Lagerfeld started at Fendi and I modelled in his first show. I remember going along the catwalk, and I understood that it was something energetic, and much more exciting than being at home with my sisters playing with Barbies. Here, you could play with real clothes.

I was not very good at school, but the women in my family were very strict. You either had to work or you had to study. There was no chance of the ' It girl' moment for me, no way. I started working at Fendi when I was just 19.

They thought it would suit me to take care of our trunk shows, so I could see the world and enjoy life a bit. I used to travel a lot, and I went out a lot at night, too. I would go directly from Studio 54 to work.

I didn't need to be a feminist because I was brought up in a place where being a woman was a plus not a minus. My father died when I was very young, leaving three daughters, and my mother is a very special woman.

Of course, she was not a traditional mother. She was building a little empire at the time and there were difficult moments when she was not there, but I can tell you that she is an incredibly intelligent, clever, strong and exceptional mother.

She has an incredible sense of style and I learned from her that the aesthetic part of life is not something light, that behind every object there is a story.

In 1984, the Fendi sisters decided to give me, my sister and my cousin a challenge as the first three of the third generation. They opened a second line, Fendissime and gave us total control over it.

Then, in 1994, my mother and Karl asked me to work full time in the design studio at Fendi. I focused on accessories as Karl was doing the ready-to-wear. By 1996 I had control. It was a family company, but I earned my stripes.

The Baguette bag was a bit of a revolutionary item because it propelled Fendi into a bigger dimension. Before, bags were made by the leather goods maker and shown in showrooms, not on catwalks.

The Baguette was the  first bag that was treated like a garment. You don’t know how many people tried hard to understand what kind of alchemical marketing plan was behind it. But actually, everything was very natural because when success hits it has to be something organic.

When I see my family name in locations all around the world, I feel so proud

Now we have created new monsters with our fur charms.  I was in Brazil at Christmas, visiting a very dear friend in Rio di Janeiro  de Janeiro, and she has a beautiful collection of birds. I thought, ‘Look at all these colours, I want to make something like that.’ This  was the starting point of these little monsters, which are  a big success.

The biggest change I have witnessed in my career is globalisation. It was a change we understood. When we sold the company to LVMH  in 2001, it was a small but well-run company. But we knew it was important to be part of this new change, otherwise you lose the moment. Now you have to be part of the world.

I have no time to be attached to a trend, so I have my personal style, which is always the same navy, black or grey, maybe brown. But my grandmother was exactly the same; she only wore navy blue, and had just one style of dress, always with the same handmade shoes. . So that’s probably in the DNA as well. 

Yes, I feel a big responsibility as the only family member still working at Fendi, but it is also a big honour. When I see my family name in beautiful locations all around the world, I feel so proud.

I think about the story that is behind it, and I know that it was not easy to get there. My mother always used to tell me that my grandparents knew this name would become important one day. They worked very hard for it, and I am very proud.”

As told to Gemma Soames