Fendi is fashion’s equivalent of Caesar’s Roman empire: a respected, prosperous affair, with a sole sovereign guiding it towards more victories. From its conception in Rome in 1926, Fendi developed from a modest leather and fur atelier into a money-making machine guided by the master craftsman, Karl Lagerfeld. Fendi remains today a powerful fashion house worn by style icons from Carrie Bradshaw to Kim Kardashian, embracing its rich Roman history with an underlying sense of futurism
Founded by Adele Casagrande and Edoardo Fendi on the Italian peninsula, the Fendi shop was a go-to destination for refined artisanal products. Two decades after it first opened, the couple called upon their five daughters—Paola, Franca, Carla, Anna and Alda—to modernize its production processes. The sisters decided to source a new fashion designer to push the brand in a more contemporary direction. In a yellow and red tartan tweed Norfolk jacket paired with French-style culottes and knee-high boots, Lagerfeld stepped into the Fendi world without a minute to waste.
By this point, Karl Lagerfeld already made a name for himself—he worked for Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou, and then Chloé in Paris, and spent time in Milan designing Krizia’s ready-to-wear line. Krizia’s PR Director, Franco Savorelli, was tasked by the Fendi sisters to find a couturier capable of refreshing their fur business, and Lagerfeld was up for the challenge. In 1965, Karl Lagerfeld’s collaboration with Fendi began, and he immediately set the tone: fun and creatively insolent. The young designer wanted to create a neat contrast with traditional furriers, and bring a youthful, decadent taste to fur-making.
Karl Lagerfeld evidently had a few tricks ready to bring the Fendi house up to date. The house had to become a brand—an entity recognizable by a global audience. During their first meeting, Lagerfeld instinctively grabbed a piece of paper and penned the iconic inverted Zucca, or Double F. “I drew the [Double F] in three seconds,” he recalls in Loic Prigent’s 2013 ‘Karl Lagerfeld Sketches His Life’ documentary, “and it became the acronym of the [Fendi] house.” Only then, Fendi began its new life exactly 40 years after the Maison was founded.
Lagerfeld’s logo was not just a logo, it had both a lexical and creative meaning. It was the mantra and creative path Lagerfeld had envisioned for Fendi: Fun Furs. Prior to Lagerfeld joining Fendi, furriers around the world were producing austere coats for rich women who couldn’t imagine anything else made of the luxurious material. Armed with a new logo carrying a formidable vision, Fendi redefined its creative strategy. The brand now stood for high craftsmanship expressed through unique playfulness, and it worked. From the implementation of the logo, the company’s spirit changed completely: innovation remained at the forefront while a light-hearted, fun and dynamic energy was woven throughout.
Fendi benefited enormously from the logomania trend in the 1980s and 1990s. Karl Lagerfeld used and abused the logo he had created to make sure Fendi was as identifiable as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. During that decade, the inverted Zucca could be found on everything from garments and accessories to bags and shoes and even home décor. Today it is even possible to buy Fendi strollers adorning the brand’s insignia for about $1,500.
The logo became part of popular culture through TV shows like Sex & The City and its prominence within the music scene. In the 3rd season of Sex & The City, Carrie Bradshaw’s purple Baguette bag is stolen from her with much despair, making it instantly a must-have accessory. The hit-bag was created in 1997 by Silvia Fendi Venturini, with a distinctive Double F buckle, and since then, more than one million units have been sold.
The world of Hip-hop has always had a thing for the Fendi logo: Dapper Dan of Harlem used fake Fendi fabrics featuring the Double F to dress artists on stage and off-duty and Kanye West became a living advert when he shaved the Fendi logo onto the side of his head in 2006 while attending a party the brand was hosting in Tokyo, Japan. Fendi became a prime choice for male and female rappers, and many rappers and urban artists have used Fendi in their lyrics. The brand is referenced in many songs including Black Eyed Peas’ 2005 hit My Humps, Yo Gotti’s 5 Star Chick remix from 2009 and in Kanye West’s Don’t Stop a year later, and Chamillionaire’s Gucci & Fendi in 2012. But, the name-drop isn’t the prerogative of hip-hop: Lady Gaga also cites Fendi in her 2013 song Fashion.
More recently, for Fendi’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection, Karl Lagerfeld brought back the 53 years old emblem to the catwalk. Modeled by Kendall Jenner, a cropped fur blouson and matching tote bag were printed in the brand’s iconic Zucca print, while Lexi Boling was dressed in a knee-length fur coat trimmed with the brand’s monogram. For the Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, the inverted Zucca again played an essential role. Karl Lagerfeld understands the power of branding, and Fendi’s logo is a key element of the brand’s overarching strategy. Celebrities, too, know how to play with such iconography. In February 2018, Kim Kardashian posted a selfie on her Instagram account, on all fours, dressed in vintage Fendi logo stockings with a matching tied-up top, the caption reading: “Fendi Fan.” Logomania is in, and the Italian brand is at the forefront of the trend.
Fendi’s inverted Zucca has become, like most fashion logos, a sign of style appurtenance. It makes one feel part of a certain elite synonymous with Italian high fashion, high drama, and high craftsmanship. It is the coat of arms of an empire that helps keep the Fendi spirit alive and desirable thus its Helvetica typeface being easily and widely counterfeited around the world. Lagerfeld’s perspicacious creativity has led him to design one of our favourite luxury hallmarks in just “three seconds.”
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