Like many other designer handbag companies, Fendi started as a leather goods store that offered horse saddles and carriage fittings. Opened in Rome in 1925 by married couple and artisans Edoardo and Adele Fendi, the company gained great acclaim among the Italian elite and became a destination store for wealthy tourists visiting Rome.

It wasn’t long before the leather and fur shop added hand-stitched handbags to its offerings, opening new stores around Europe. Because of shortages during World War II, the Fendis took to making handbags out of hard materials like wood.

Adele’s five daughters—Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla, and Alda—slept in the handbag drawer as infants, so it’s not surprising that they joined the company once they became adults. Unlike their traditional parents, these young women were not adverse to taking risks with the company. In 1965, they started working with a flamboyant rising young designer named Karl Lagerfeld. Soon, he created the famous double-F Fendi logo.

At Fendi, Lagerfeld took a whole new approach to fur. He altered its texture and shape so it was easier to wear, and he would tint mink and other luxury furs unnatural colors like violet and pink. In 1969, Lagerfeld introduced Fendi’s first ready-to-wear fur collection. He was just as experimental with leather, trying out different ways to print, weave, dye, and tan it, and making handbags softer and less-structured.

In 1977, Fendi launched its Lagerfeld-designed ready-to-wear clothing collection, which furthered its reputation as a firm of sophisticated and well-made fashion. The '70s was also the decade the earth-toned logo bag became the thing to have, so Fendi produced a whole line of muted chocolate-and-carmel striped bags with the double-F logo on the front.

During the early '90s, Silvia Venturini Fendi joined the company as the design coordinator. She found the company's line of post-’80s bags to be “plastic, normal, plain, ugly.” Her first order was to revive the hand-stitched handbag tradition of Adele Fendi with the Selleria line, which featured naturally treated cowhide and was characterized by a slightly bumpy surface and big, obvious saddle stitches. These bags soon developed a cultish following.

But it was her 1997 creation, the Baguette Bag, that ushered in a new era of It Bags for Fendi. This purse, which was diminutive in size and designed to be carried under the arm ...

You could purchase a Baguette in silk velvet, fur, snakeskin, crocodile, raffia, or printed faux pony. Or it might be beaded, adorned with Swarovski crystals, or paillette sequins. Some employed Northern Native American or Aztec patterns, Scottish tartans, or denim. The logo could be shiny metal, beaded, or encrusted with crystals. Some Baguettes were even embellished with feathers or mirrors.

This It Bag was seen on the arms of Madonna and Naomi Campbell; Meryl Streep tossed one around in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” The Baguette was practically an uncredited cast member of “Sex and The City” season 3, appearing in gold, purple sequin, white diamond, and brown snake.

Sophia Loren says collecting Baguettes was like an addiction for her. Fendi, which introduced a new Baguette style every six months to keep them hot, made an even smaller riff on the Baguette called the Croissant, which is about the size of a grapefruit wedge and really only good for carrying a cell phone or wallet. It’s actually meant to be held inside a bigger bag.

In 2005, though, the Baguette was finally upstaged by the Fendi Spy, a soft leather bag with a curved sack-like shape that isn’t quite a hobo bag or a satchel. Favored by Kate Moss, this slouchy bag has hidden compartments and double-braided leather handles. Almost immediately after its release, the Spy, which sold for upwards of $2,000, had a wait list.

Just a year later, the much-coveted B Bag came along, Characterized by two large belt buckles on the front, the B is made in everything from calfskin and snake to straw and patent leather.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University is the place to learn about handbag makers from Adrian's, which made Bakelite bags, to Whiting … [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

$1900 Authentic Fendi Italy Baguette Leather Flap Bag Purse Clutch Large$1180 Authentic Fendi Italy Zucca Mia Grande Purse BagFendi "3jours" Blue Leather Handbag Authentic $2450Fendi Mini Peekaboo Black Calf Leather Womens Bag Silver HardwareFendi Mini Peekaboo Togo Leather Black With Red Interior Small Women's BagFendi Mini Peekaboo Black Calf Leather Womens Bag Gold HardwareFendi Monster Eye Bag Bug Red Black Nylon Backpack Handbag Leather BagFendi Zucca Spy Black Nappa Leather Handbag W/silver HardwareFendi Nappa Spy Bag Hobo Honey Brown Shoulder Bag 157313Authentic Fendi Mini Peekaboo And Dust BagVintage Fendi Zucca Pattern Handbag Bag Tote Shopper Never Used NosAuthentic Vintage Fendi Shoulder Bag Browns Pvc 67713Fendi Pebbled Calfskin Leather Selleria Doctor Bag Dark Brown 157237Authentic Fendi Borsa B Bis Cudio Rovere Brown Leather Shoulder Rare Handbag BagFendi Glazed Leather Large Whipstitch Shoulder Bag Camel 147531Authentic Fendi Green HandbagFendi Tobacco Zucca Small Chef Shoulder BagFendi Nappa Leather Embossed Mini Baguette White Shoulder Bag 155809Fendi Women's Monster Bug Eyes Black Shoulder Bag Handbag Extra LargeFendi By The Way Light Pink Calf Leather Small Womens Bag Red HandleFendi Spy Black Pebble Leather Zucca Large Hobo HandbagFendi Authentic Handbag 100% Authentic Vintage Fendi Dark Brown Washed Leather Spy Bag Large Authentic Fendi Hand Bag Selleria Pinks Leather 124683Authentic Fendi Bag Bug Fendi Key Ring Fendi Monster Key RingRare Vintage 1970s Fendi Woman Tote Bag Purse Leather Brown Black Shoulder Fendi Small Crossbody Bag (used)Fendi Rare Tote Floral Stiching Snakeskin Made In ItalyFendi Black Leather Beaded Fancy Cocktail Purse Fendi By The Way Red Calf Leather Small Womens BagAuthentic Fendi Beaded Baguette Lizard Trim VintageAuthentc Vintage Fendi Burgandy Leather Purse, Nib, Ca. 1985, CoaFendi Zucca Multi Color Clutch Pouch Small Evening Bag Fendi Denim Squirrel Spy Bag 100% AuthenticFendi Chocolate & Cocoa Velvet & Croc Leather HandbagFendi Half Moon Purse And Matching Wallet Fendi Spy Handbag Gorgeous Limited Edition GoldFendi Authentic Cross Body Signature Handbag Dark And Light Brown StripedFendi Black Striped Canvas Leather Contrast Cross Body Purse HandbagFendi B Bag Black Patent Leather Satchel Fendi Zucca Spy Hobo BagFendi HandbagFendi Small Monogram Zip Handbag Vintage Fendi Cross Over PurseFendi Selleria Dark Brown Pebble Leather Crossbody Shoulder Long Strap HandbagFendi Authentic Black Lizard Handbag. Fendi Ff Zucca Logo Small Pouch BagFendi Vintage Ff Khaki Coated Canvas Leather Crossbody Bag Italy, Fw102004Original Fendi Leather Purse