Laura Biagiotti and Carla Fendi, two 'Made in Italy' icons
In the last month, "Made in Italy" has lost two of its most conspicuous icons. Laura Biagiotti and Carla Fendi represented much more than their own brands, as they supported art in all its various expressions; be it music, cinema, literature or plastic arts.
Besides having based themselves and their respective businesses in Italy’s capital, Laura and Carla had another important point in common: their husbands were essential in the development and internationalisation of their respective brands and in the act of artistic patronage.
Their collections covered a great deal of the wide-spanning fashion world. Some will associate them with luxurious Italian Handbags, Italian Leather Belts or other fashion accessories; others with prêt-à-porter and their distinguished Italian perfumes.
Similarly, her carefully designed products marked my own personal life. I remember looking for a meaningful first gift for my girlfriend at the time, and being unable to find anything that would match such high expectation and pressure. A work colleague in Paris, whose main interest was fashion and kept in touch with the latest innovations, recommended Biagiotti’s perfume ‘Roma’ - a tribute to her beloved city. I did not hesitate to consider it as a possible gift due to its significance, and after sampling it on a thin slip of cardboard in the high-end section of a shopping center, I purchased the product for my girlfriend, who would later become my wife.
For Laura Biagiotti - the 'Queen of Cashmere' as defined by the NYT, fashion and art were the two passions that formed and marked her life. She studied archeology at university, which formed her taste and interpretation of fashion, the way to dress comfortably whilst looking elegant.
She founded in July 1965 together with her manager Gianni Cigna - who would later become her husband - Biagiotti Export in order to produce and distribute Roman fashion griffes (Capucci, Schuberth, among others). In 1972 the first Laura Biagiotti collection was presented and paraded in Florence.
Like other "Made in Italy" flagship brands, she transferred the prêt-à-porter range from Florence to Milan. It was then when she met the French fashion illustrator René Gruau (1909-2004), for whom she would become an inspirational muse.
In Laura Biagiotti’s collections there was a predominant use of the colour white, with which she often dressed, and worked on the catwalk. Often referred to as the ‘queen of cashmere’, she pioneered the material by shaping it into a much softer version, as she stated that ‘‘English cashmere was rigid’’ and she turned it into a feather; a material delicate yet strong.
Throughout her outstanding artistic endeavours, it is worth mentioning the restoration of the 'Cordonata del Campidoglio' by Michelangelo and the Fontane di Piazza Farnese.
She was a pioneer when parading in China in 1988, and in Moscow in the historic headquarters of the CP in 1995.In 1990 she was crowned as "Woman of the Year"; in 2002 she was given a stamp to commemorate her 30 years of career, and in 2007 she received a Special Golden Lion for fashion during the Film Festival.
From 1980 Laura Biagiotti lived in the Castello Marco Simone, not far from the city of Rome, an eleventh century monument.
Like Laura Biagiotti, the death of Carla Fendi it’s an undeniable loss for the world of fashion, as she headed the ‘Made in Italy’ alongside Krizia, Ottavio Missoni and Gianfranco Ferrè.
Her father had predicted it: “the Fendi brand will become famous. Because my last name is short, unique, and is musical in all the languages of the world”.
The international expansion of the Fendi brand was her achievement, mainly considering their success in the US market. She was passionate about art and music, together with her husband Candido Speroni, created the Carla Fendi Foundation in 2007 to develop her patronage and support works of art, literature, cinema, fashion, handcrafts and other social initiatives.
She joined her four sisters in the family business in the late 1950s. Her responsibilities ranged from administration, design and planning, production, sales, to public relations through which she set her most difficult objective, the North American market.
In the 1980s she decided to link the Fendi brand to the Spoleto Festival. The Festival “dei Due Mondi” is an annual summer music and opera festival held each June to early July in Spoleto.
Regarding the purpose of the arts she stated:
"I think very much of the importance and value of beauty as a culture and education. This respect for the beautiful I have devoted it to the artistic beauties that surround us: the beauty as culture and culture as vital lymph, and like happiness, because it raises the spirit, it is oxygen in a world that overwhelms us daily. This is my belief, and in this I put all my energies. "
We shall continue to extensively cover the origins of the made in Italy, as well as its importance in the world of fashion and the arts.