By  on January 25, 1994

ROME -- The Fendis have a knack for mixing the classic with the avant-garde. The same company that made a globally recognized trademark out of simple black and beige stripes has also pulled off such feats as presenting a singular collection of shredded, caveman-inspired furs, and an eyebrow-raising porno star "spettacolo."

But when it comes down to business, the Fendis have integrated the traditions of a family-run firm with a forward-looking strategy of expansion in foreign markets designed to keep the name strong.

Run by the five Fendi sisters, the company expects to register 1993 revenues of about $77 million (130 billion lire at current exchange rates), essentially flat with 1992 results. About 65 percent of sales are exports.

With established markets growing saturated and increasingly ho-hum about designer brands, the company has decided to tackle both old markets and new with a barrage of new initiatives, said Carla Fendi, one of the five sisters who run the firm, which was founded in 1925. Starting at home, Fendi has consolidated its major showrooms and workshops as well as its commercial and administrative offices in a suburban office park just minutes from the Fiumicino airport -- a convenient stop for foreign buyers with little time for Rome's crowded streets.

"These offices were established with the future in mind," Carla Fendi said. "We planned ahead and made significant investments in these facilities specifically to be able to offer more services to the client.

"Now our clients can come here and find the whole world of Fendi and the representatives of each sector," she added, noting that the company also retains its traditional downtown store on Via Borgognona and a showroom and bridal atelier in Palazzo Ruspoli for local clients. In a demonstration of the "think globally, act locally" maxim, Fendi is also launching a brand-new collection targeted specifically at the firm's largest export market: America.

The collection, which is designed by longtime Fendi associate Karl Lagerfeld, is called Knicoat -- a line of wool coats and sweaters designed to be worn together, said Carla Fendi, who engineered Fendi's entrance into the U.S. market in the late Sixties. The new collection is a subcomponent of the Fendi rtw signature apparel line (also designed by Lagerfeld) and will be presented during the designer rtw shows coming up in Milan in late February, she said. "It's elegant, travels well and is very practical, something that the Europeans have undervalued," Fendi said. Looking farther afield, Fendi has also recently signed a licensing, production and distribution agreement in Japan with apparel company Naigai Co. Ltd, which had been seeking a European designer license for some time.

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