Franca Fendi, one of the five sisters who transformed their parents’ small fur business into one of Italy’s most prestigious fashion labels, has passed away in Rome at the age of 87, as reported by Italian media.

Franca, Paola, Anna, Carla (who passed away in 2017), and Alda took joint charge of the label founded by their parents Edoardo and Adele Fendi, transforming it from a small fur business into one of Italy’s longest-established brands, thanks to the extraordinary quality and design of its leather goods and the lengthy collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld.

Franca, born in 1935, was involved in running the family business since her youth. In the 1960s, the label began to flourish under the five sisters’ leadership, as they divided up the different managerial roles between them. Franca took charge of purchasing and was the director of Fendi’s via Borgognona store in Rome.

It was at that time, in 1965, that Fendi began to collaborate with German designer Karl Lagerfeld. He joined the label, then exclusively focused on womenswear, as creative director, and it was he who compared the Fendi sisters to a hand’s five fingers: inseparable, interconnected, always working in unison.

In 2018, Franca published a book entitled ‘Sei con me’ (You are with me), dedicated to her husband Luigi Formilli, who died in 2001 at the age of 70. In the book, Franca told how Formilli supported her so that she could devote herself totally to the Fendi business, even leaving his own job.

At the presentation of the book in 2018, she emphasised how, with her parents, siblings and later children, she and the family always took all important decisions together. “Each of us had a professional domain in which to express their creativity,” she said.

The company was founded in 1918 as a fur workshop by Adele Casagrande, and took the Fendi name in 1925, after Adele married Edoardo Fendi, and the workshop was turned into the label’s first boutique.

Initially, it produced only leather goods and accessories, but the quality of the handbags, leather accessories and of the raw materials used was such that in the 1930s and 40s the boutique became internationally renowned.

In 1946, the founders left the business in the hands of the next generation. From then on, the company was run by their five daughters.

In November 1999, the five sisters sold a 51% stake in Fendi, which was valued at that time at 1.9 billion lire (just under €1 billion), to French luxury entrepreneur Bernard Arnault.

Although Fendi is now part of luxury giant LVMH, the family still remains in charge of style. Creative Director Silvia Venturini Fendi, Anna’s daughter, is in fact the third generation in this all-female family story.

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