Carla Fendi, industry icon and head of fashion dynasty, dies in Rome at 79

Carla Fendi (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)

Fashion icon Carla Fendi died on Monday in Rome from unspecified causes, her company announced. One of five sisters who inherited a small, Roman leather goods store from her parents, Fendi helped transform the Fendi brand into one of the most successful, luxury goods operations in the world. As president of the company — affectionately referred to as ‘The General’ — Fendi was especially influential in expanding the brand’s North American presence and marketing the fur coat as an accessible trend rather than an upper-class privilege.

For more than 90 years, the Fendi company has operated as one of the fashion world’s premiere, female-run dynasties. The classic ‘double F’ insignia (which stands for ‘fun fur’) remains one of the most recognizable logos in fashion history. Despite the Fendi sisters’ decision to sell the controlling stake in the company to French luxury conglomerate LVMH in 2001, Fendi remained the honorary president and is recognized as the driving force behind the marketing and commercial strategies that propelled the company to international fame. A passionate supporter of Roman culture and history, Fendi helped finance the restoration of Rome’s Trevi Fountain and was an active patron of the Two Worlds Arts Festival held each year in Spoleto, Italy.

In an interview with The New York Times, Fendi’s niece Silvia — the company’s current creative director for accessories, men’s and children’s wear — remembered her aunt as a pioneer that helped steer the company to success. “Aunt Carla was one of the most visionary people I have ever met,” Silvia Fendi said. “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.”

Although she had no children of her own, Fendi is survived by all four of her sisters as well as 11 nieces and nephews. In a testament to the impact of her and her sisters on Italian culture, the Fendi family was granted a special dispensation that allows their descendants — both female and male — to adopt their maternal surname.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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