By  on May 19, 2005

ROME — Karl Lagerfeld eased into his gleaming white desk at Fendi's new headquarters here Wednesday, picked up a pencil and, with a quick flourish, finished off what must be his zillionth sketch for the Roman house.

"It's a stunning building, no?" Lagerfeld quipped.

Only minutes earlier, the designer sat at a press conference next to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman Bernard Arnault, who confirmed a WWD report that Lagerfeld had signed another "long-term" contract with Fendi, continuing an association that has endured for half of the house's 80-year history.

"[Lagerfeld] embodies Fendi's spirit," Arnault said on Wednesday. "He is for sure a key player in Fendi's success. Four or five years down the road, Fendi will be a top Italian brand."

The announcement, which came with few details, ended a long period of uncertainty during which Lagerfeld was often vocal about his discontent with Fendi's development.

On Wednesday, seated between Arnault and Dior chief Sidney Toledano, who also oversees Fendi's strategy, Lagerfeld said simply, "I am so happy."

And a bit nostalgic. He and Arnault both recalled that one of Lagerfeld's first designs for Fendi was a dress for Silvia Venturini Fendi, today its accessories and men's wear designer, but then a very well-dressed primary school student.

Lagerfeld also related that he once worked with Adele, the founder and matriarch of the Fendi empire, in a former cinema on Via Borgognona where they created the double F logo. "It's been a wonderful adventure," he said.

However, he noted that Fendi needed management resources and a better structure, which the assembled panel assured were now in place.

"I'm fortunate enough that I have ideas come to my mind," he said in response to a question about his design prowess. "I need to rely on a team of strong, capable people. Being successful in this business means good teamwork."

Meanwhile, the ever-bullish Arnault painted a bright future for Fendi and asserted that it would become one of the most important luxury brands. During a question-and-answer period, Arnault was asked when Fendi would reach profitability. The company lost an estimated 25 million euros, or $31.6 million at current exchange, last year on sales of 250 million euros, or $316 million. "We will reach our target by 2007, or earlier I hope," he said.

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