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    

Vintage Marked Fendi Leather And Snake Skin Crossbody Shoulder Bag100% Authentic Fendi Zucca Roll Bag Brown Auth Medium Fendi By The Way Satchel Bag Gray Calf SkinFendi BackpackFendi Backpack Black Stylish Bag Karlito Fur Crest Handbag Fendi Brown Zucca Oyster Tote BagAuth Fendi Monster Leather Card Case/holder (excellent Cond. W/ Box + Dust Bag)Authentic Fendi Leather HandbagFendi Vintage Backpack Pre-owned Good Condition. Authentic Fendi Travel Bag Browns Pvc 200034Vintage Straw Red Fendi Clutch BagFendi Baguette Pink Sequins Vintage Rare **stunning** Retail $4,000 Satc Sjp BagFendi Small Kan I Mini Bag In Gray LeatherFendi Black Monster Eyes Black Studs Pouch Large ClutchFendi Blue Monster Eyes Pouch Large Clutch Red/whiteAuthentic Fendi Zucca Mini Chef Black HandbagFendi Metallic Lurex Zucca Small Mia Tote Bronze 193272Authentic Fendi HandbagAuthentic Preowned Fendi Small Pink Suede Leather Trim Shoulder BagFendi Shoulder Bag Purse Handbag Canvas Nylon Logo Leather Strap Made In ItalyImperfect Auth Designer Handbag Lot Of 5 Tory Burch-pucci-burberry-coach-fendiVintage Classic Fendi Purse Shoulder Or Clutch And Dust Cover!Vintage Fendi HandbagVintage Fendi Signature Logo Striped Canvas Leather Crossbody Bag Handbag PurseAuthentic Vintage Fendi Zucca Cross Body Shoulder Bag Purse Handbag LeopardFendi Calfskin Romano Carla Selleria Shopping Tote Black 183406Authentic Fendi Black Leather Shoulder Bag PurseFendi Evening Bag. Tiny. Fendi Logo Magnet Closure, Perfect Used ConditionVintage Fendi Shoulder BagFendi Black Thin Stripe Signature Messenger Shoulder BagFendi Monogram Bag Deep Red CanvasAuthentic, Beautiful, Stylish, Baby Blue Fendi Monogram BagFendi Double Zip F Print Black And Tan Shoulder Purse With Dust Cover BagVintage Fendi Purse HandbagFendi Black Zucca Canvas Small Shoulder BaguetteAuthentic Fendi Zucca Pattern Wallet 2 Piece Set Shoulder Bag Canvas[used]Fendi Made In Italy Signature Black Fendissima Ff Monogram Canvas Shoulder Bag Fendi 2 Jours Clutch Bag Leather Black/orangeGenuine Fendi Bag Handbag 4 Set Pouch Clutch BagFendi Italy Clutch Bag Purse Handbag Striped Vintage Black (read Details)Fendi Shoulder Bag"fendi" Denim Handbag / Exc. BondFendi Baguette Zucca Flower Bag $880 Gorgeous Excellent Condition PurseAuthentic Fendi Zucca Pattern Shoulder Bag Canvas[used]Auth Fendi Zucca Pattern Canvas Shoulder Bag Brown Vintage 7h020070#