Carla Fendi epitomises female entrepreneurship in harmony with charisma, fine taste, and sensitivity
Carla Fendi is a symbol in the fashion world who goes beyond the habitual idea of a patron. She is the fourth of five Fendi sisters, by now a trademark in the LVMH franchise that has marked Italian history. Ms. Fendi conquered the international market through sheer intuition. In 2007, she launched her namesake foundation to promote Italian culture through the fields of literature, filmmaking, fashion, and music, and donated – among other things – a theatre at the Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi, the Caio Melisso, which she fully reconstructed with her own means.
Since the year 2000, the number of Swiss foundations has increased by 60 percent, and currently totals 12,900. Ms. Fendi has shown great enthusiasm towards the vitality of Swiss patronage. She is fond of Switzerland in general, calling it “a beautiful country that takes good care of its territory, is strongly inclined to hospitality, with high quality of services and culture.” She also admires the strong sense of community spirit and the marked individual and social ethical responsibility, which she says, “distinguish an important and admirable society.”
After the many successes achieved by the Fendi brand, the lady of fashion now relishes in the delights of being a patron of the arts and explains what this role means to her. “I’m a pure patron, and I act without any profit-making intent. In Italy we don’t have particular fiscal benefits as in the Anglo-Saxon world, therefore I act ex-clusively out of social responsibility. I feel it very gratifying because it makes me feel an active member of the society we live in. Being engaged in the preservation of our artistic heritage and subsidizing culture, promoting sustainability, is very im-portant to me because I feel I am supporting my country to preserve its heritage and emphasize its image worldwide. Last but not least, doing this generates job op-portunities.”
Italian fashion by all means leads to Milan, however the Fendi brand has its roots in the city of Rome. This is where the first fur coat shop was born in 1918 with Adele Casagrande, who eventually married Edoardo Fendi. This formidable couple that gave birth to the five Fendi sisters managed to have the family atelier conquer world notoriety, already in the thirties.
Carla Fendi believes that culture can be handled as business. “You may contribute to a project not solely through donations, but rather become an active part of the process. You may follow the entire development of the project, participate in the making of it, and see the final outcome. Being directly involved is something that has been crucial for me, ever since I first started working, because to follow some-thing throughout the process means to see it from start to finish, with passion, commitment, and discipline. This was my attitude during the restoration of the Caio Melisso Theatre in Spoleto. After the municipality approved the process I personally supervised the entire renovation, with consultants who guaranteed the work would be done in full respect of the history and culture of the theatre. I was very moved to have Maestro Riccardo Muti say to me that he had never heard of a theatre be-ing restored by a private person, out of the pure spirit of patronage.”
Ms. Fendi is still intrigued by the world of fashion since it “has not ceased to reflect the times we are living in, absorbing its moods, uncertainties, and fantasies. It is a witness, and at the same time a creator, of society’s customs.” She admits that she has always loved her job. “I have dedicated great passion to get acquainted with the extraordinary creativity of Fendi, to explain what lies behind the brand, its culture, and research. I wanted to explain that beyond the mere collection there is a story that was built with minute elements from previous collections, as well as events conceived from thoughts, ideas, and a philosophy that collectively created the label. This requires a remarkable training that also leads to much satisfaction.” After fifteen years since Fendi was acquired by LVMH, Ms. Fendi is “happy that the luxury label was given the financial opportunity to become so competitive on the global market.”
How does Carla Fendi define elegance? “It’s a gift you have within: it is part of your soul and personality.” What about taste? “Taste is a craft that you learn and allows you to balance fashion with aesthetics.” She does not believe in luxury. “This word never existed in my life and never shall. I rather believe in quality; that represents everything to me.”
Article by Piera Anna Franini