In the history of modern fashion many private labels have been sold to fashion conglomerates, but there are some that, generation after generation, still belong to the same family. These fashion dynasties have worked hard to ensure that their legacy is passed intact to their next of kin, becoming real economic empires, stable and glamorous.
Some brands still carry the family name of their founders, but others hide behind their moniker the engine that moves the business. One example is Chanel. The French couture house has always been identified with Coco Chanel, but the Wertheimer family has supported the brand throughout the years. Seeing the potential of the great designer, they began investing in the company in 1924. Today the grandchildren of Pierre Wertheimer, Gerard and Alain, run the exclusive label from New York and Paris.
Many of these family dynasties are based in Italy: Versace, Prada, Brunello Cucinelli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Fendi and Missoni, to name only a few. Some stand out for their tragic family histories as is the case of Versace and Gucci, others because they are led by women. The five Fendi sisters (Carla, Alda, Franca, Anna and Paola), known as “team Fendi”, share the responsibility of running the company from different fronts. Each was entrusted with specific functions within the firm. Paola is the expert in fur, leather and other materials. Sylvia Fendi, Anna’s daughter, has created a more accessible and informal line with help from daughter Delfina and sister Ilaria. Delfina has followed in the family steps with her own jewelry line, Delfina Delettrez, popular among artists, musicians and models.
1. Rosita Missoni; Ottavio Missoni. / Photo: Jacopo Raule. / 2. Donatella Versace; Santo Versace. / Photo: Larry Busacca.
Another Italian firm that deserves special attention is Salvatore Ferragamo, where family loyalty among the clan is well known and much commented in fashion circles. As with Fendi, at Ferragamo, the five brothers were assigned from the start an important task in the business, from administration to product design. Fulvia and Giovanna Ferragamo work in the design department, Massimo is the chairman of Ferragamo USA, Ferruccio of Ferragamo Italia and Leonardo runs the Lungarno Hotels. Same as in Prada, the third generation is very active in the family business. Likewise at Missoni, Margherita Missoni, newlywed and not yet thirty years old, has come into the scene to modernize the brand.
1. Ilaria Venturini Fendi; Silvia Venturini Fendi. / Photo: Larry Busacca. / 2. Delfina Delettrez Fendi. / Photo: Jacopo Raule.
In American fashion, the offspring of Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta also play an important role in the family business, especially in the case of Herrera, whose four daughters are her muses, models and active participants in the line’s design.
The business of fashion is stronger today than it has ever been. As long as this industry remains in the hands of the founding families, we are assured that we will receive the quality we’ve come to expect from our favorite brands. On the other hand, large fashion conglomerates are able to make some of these brands more productive and cost efficient. ■