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Family matters. In fashion, there’s no place that statement resonates greater than in Italy. No other country, whether France or the U.S., has the sheer volume of companies that have passed hands from generation to generation: The Fendis, Missonis, Ferragamos, Bulgaris, Benettons, Marzottos, Maramottis, Zegnas, Ferrettis, Etros, and Anna Molinari and the Tarabinis. And that’s not even counting Giorgio Armani, whose nieces Roberta and Silvana work behind the scenes; Emilio Pucci, whose daughter Laudomia Pucci is image director, and Gianni Versace, whose sister Donatella took over the design reins after he died; her daughter Allegra is the firm’s heiress. La famiglia counted so much that when WWD did a profile on the Missoni clan in 1972, the reporter accompanied them on a family vacation to Sveti Klement, off the coast of Croatia. “The Missonis—a well-knit family life” read the September 28 headline. Still, founder Ottavio remarked at the time, “I don’t think that any of my children will replace me. They are not involved in creation. Luca likes more technical problems…Vittorio is a dreamer…Angela studies languages and doesn’t care. I really think that when both Rosita and I are no longer there, there will be no Missoni look.” How wrong he was. Not only did all three children enter the business, with Angela as the current creative director pushing the Missoni name forward, her daughter Margherita launched her own accessories collection for fall 2010 and has become the de facto brand ambassador.
“Our strength is that we have found the ideal form of working as a team,” Anna Fendi told the paper during a May 1974 interview with her four sisters and mom—Fendi founder Adele. “Our success is due to our union, none of us could have done it all alone.” Like the Missonis, the company is now down to the third generation: Silvia Venturini Fendi, Anna’s daughter, works on men’s and accessories, while Karl Lagerfeld famously helms women’s ready-to-wear. But Fendi is also a perfect case in point of what happens once a generation decides to restructure the business. In 2001, LVMH took a controlling interest and, over the years, the family members employed—many dubbed the setup, which included numerous husbands and grandkids, complicated and Byzantine—departed; Silvia is the sole Fendi remaining. Other examples: Bottega Veneta’s Vittorio and Laura Moltedo, who resigned months after selling to Gucci Group in 2001, and Nino Cerruti and son Julian, who left after selling to conglomerate Fin.part in 2000.
As for the Ferragamos, who have seen their own share of drama through the years, all six of Salvatore Ferragamo’s children joined the business on their own accord. “When we started to work at the company,” Fulvia Visconti told WWD in 2006, “each of us had this very strong desire to accomplish this dream of my father, who died too young, to create a fashion house.” His widow, Wanda, now in her 80s, told the paper as late as this year that she still goes to the office “every day.”