Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld celebrate fifty years of collaboration, an unprecedented partnership in the fashion world. For the occasion, Karl Lagerfeld tell the story of 50 years of pure creativity, during which the famous roman House became one of the most avant-garde fashion label in the world.
How would you describe the relationship that built up between you and the Fendi family over the past 50 years?
I loved Adele Fendi, the founder of the House… she was really a matriarch, she was great, a woman with an incredible charm. She was unbelievable.
It was great to work with the five sisters and there was no combination like this in the world in terms of ideas, especially in that period when all the things were not as popular as today. There was Alda, who was blonde, a bit like Silvana Mangano. She was the youngest and she was very different from the others. The eldest was Paola, who was the most brunette. I liked her a lot, she was the fur expert. Then, Carla with her short hair, she was the driving force behind everything and had a real vocation for PR. Franca was blonde and quieter, she took care of the accessories. Then there was Anna, who had curly hair and a little turned-up nose.
And then Silvia Venturini Fendi, we have worked together since the first collection I did. Silvia was 4 years old and she modeled for the pictures we did for a unisex capsule collection. One kid, one woman, one man with the same fur and Silvia was posing. She has been raised here. I don’t remember Fendi without Silvia.
Never before an Artistic Director and a Fashion House collaborated for such a long period in fashion history, how would you explain this? Does it link up to a particular vision you and Fendi share?
My 50 years collaboration with Fendi is the longest collaboration in fashion. Nowhere, even designers of their own, no one lived long enough to do it for such a long time and I am not tired of it at all. I even think I work better today and have a clearer head. My work is a bigger priority now than when I was younger and it’s a very good thing. I never had the feeling I was married so it was like freelance, open marriage situation. I kept the passion because there is no exclusivity. I need the fresh air from the outside to see what’s going on. If you put me in the cage I am worthless.
Fendi is my Italian version of creativity. It’s Italian to its core. It is not only Italian, it’s Roman.
I give ideas. I design clothes and beautiful furs… I am totally free and in Fendi everything is possible. I think it is great that in life you can do something you want to do because you like doing it and not being bored. I’m even interested in lots of things, even more today than before.
Acccording to you, what was your most important contribution to Fendi?
When I met the five sisters, they were known in Rome for expensive and beautiful furs, very rich, bourgeois, but heavy, typical of those times. Fur was the first step for social recognition when a wealthy woman received a fur coat as a present from her husband. I had a modern vision and so they asked me to create a small collection with furs worn in a different way. They were modern and fun! Fendi and fun have the same initials that’s why I put the 2 letters together in less than 5 seconds on the table, the double FF, meaning “Fun Furs”. The bourgeois furs disappeared. Fendi became a modern fur house that created a revolution and evolution in the way fur was seen, made, handled and worn. And this story still continues today with amazing furs, very modern and incredibly well done, realized always with an eye projected towards the future.
But the main secret of Fendi is the unique craftsmanship of the best Italian artisans. The secret is also that this Maison is rooted in Italy from the first day of its creation… Totally faithful to its roots, also after the acquisition from LVMH group, that gives to the brand a unique international dimension and the possibility to be modern and avant-garde at the same time. It gained a global dimension with a strong Italian and roman unique backbone.