From the Baguette to the Croissant, a History of Fendi Handbags

·7 min read
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Steven Meisel, <em>Vogue</em>, January 2006</cite>
Photographed by Steven Meisel, Vogue, January 2006
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Raymond Meier, <em>Vogue</em>, August 2011</cite>
Photographed by Raymond Meier, Vogue, August 2011
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Raymond Meier, <em>Vogue</em>, May 2011</cite>
Photographed by Raymond Meier, Vogue, May 2011

First thing’s first: Fendi’s inverted-F logo does not, in fact, stand for Fendi. Rather, it’s “Fun Fur,” as determined by Karl Lagerfeld, the late design impresario who helped hoist Fendi onto the world’s fashion stage. But if we’re talking Fendi handbags, it’s really Silvia Venturini Fendi who made the big moves. Venturini Fendi is credited with the introduction of the Baguette and Peekaboo bags—two of the Italian house’s most recognizable goods. She is the granddaughter of Adele and Edoardo Fendi, who founded the luxury label back in 1925 on Rome’s Via del Plebiscito. Since then the label has maintained a staunch dedication to Italian craftsmanship; the Baguette may be named after a French culinary staple, but the rest of it is as Italian as it gets.

<h1 class="title">1977 Fendi sisters Alda. Paola. Franca. Carla and in their Atelier</h1><cite class="credit">Photo: Getty Images</cite>

1977 Fendi sisters Alda. Paola. Franca. Carla and in their Atelier

Photo: Getty Images

When Fendi was first launched, it specialized in leather goods and furs, but in 1946 a new generation of Fendis joined—and began to transform—the family business. Already a matriarchy with Adele at the helm, Fendi was built into the business that it is today by Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla, and Alda, her five daughters. As young girls, they were said to appear in matching black and navy ensembles devised by Adele, who seemingly exercised good taste in all matters of life. They’d grow up to take on various and unique roles within the business, overseeing furs, leathers, customer relations, business coordinations, and sales, respectively. The five sisters also hatched the idea to hire a then 34-year-old Lagerfeld to be Fendi’s creative director in 1967. Story has it that they traveled to Paris and waited on the steps of his apartment building for hours to lure him to the Roman house.

<cite class="credit">Photo: Getty Images</cite>
Photo: Getty Images
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Henry Clarke, <em>Vogue</em>, April 1972</cite>
Photographed by Henry Clarke, Vogue, April 1972

It was Lagerfeld who replaced the house’s squirrel logo. (After Edoardo presented Adele with a painting of a squirrel—to him, she was busy darting about like the animal all day long—Adele appropriated the motif into the company’s logo.) His appointment marked the beginning of an era during which the double-Fs appeared everywhere (at Fendi it’s called the Zucca) and the house innovated with dyed, shaved, and patchworked fur as had never been done before.

Today, as the artistic director of women’s collections, Kim Jones works alongside Venturini Fendi, whose contributions cannot be understated. After beginning her career wrapping packaging at Fendi, Venturini Fendi joined the company in 1994 as creative director for accessories. Three years later, she invented what is considered to be the most iconic of Fendi handbags, the Baguette—and the rest is history. Despite the fact that the bag was meant to be slipped discreetly beneath the arm, somewhat obscured by the body of the wearer, it quickly became a totem of status within the worlds of fashion and pop culture. Best of all, though, it didn’t take itself too seriously: Iterations of the Baguettes are splashed in sequins, doused in diamanté, and adorned with embroidery. More about the Baguette, and its cousins the Croissant and the Peekaboo, below.

<cite class="credit">Photographed by Raymond Meier, <em>Vogue</em>, August 2010</cite>
Photographed by Raymond Meier, Vogue, August 2010
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Karim Sadli, <em>Vogue</em>, October 2013</cite>
Photographed by Karim Sadli, Vogue, October 2013
<cite class="credit">Photographed by Raymond Meier, <em>Vogue</em>, November 2006</cite>
Photographed by Raymond Meier, Vogue, November 2006

The Baguette

In 1997 Bill Clinton began his second term, NASA sent a rover to cruise around Mars, and Good Will Hunting was released. It was also the year that Fendi gave the world the Baguette, often considered the first-ever It bag. Created by Venturini Fendi, the bag—Fendi’s purse de résistance—was initially unpopular among the Fendi design team, which was hesitant to make such a statement with a handbag at a time when minimalism was the order of the day. Featuring a slight silhouette, a single strap, and a flap closure, it first appeared with a beige FF motif in a woolly textile and a removable strap constructed from a camellia-colored leather.

<h1 class="title">"Bags: Inside Out" At The V&A - Press View</h1><cite class="credit">Photo: Getty Images</cite>

"Bags: Inside Out" At The V&A - Press View

Photo: Getty Images

The beauty of the Baguette is that it’s a blank canvas, designed to take on the mood of the current collection. (In an October 2000 episode of Sex and the City that cemented the accessory as a status symbol, Carrie Bradshaw’s Baguette—targeted by a petty thief—shimmers in grape juice–colored sequins.) Since its debut, thousands of variations of the Baguette have been introduced into the Fendi oeuvre. The bag is generally offered in three main sizes, a standard Baguette (27 cm long x 15 cm high), a Baguette mini (19 cm long x 11.5 cm high), and a Baguette multi (28 cm long x 17 cm high, with two straps), but its finishes vary season to season. The classic Zucca logo, moreover, has recently been remixed into a swirling monogram dubbed “FF Vertigo” in collaboration with artist Sarah Coleman. No matter which Baguette you go for, the choice is a delicious one. Shop a variety—including the recently released original colorway—here.

Fendi Baguette 1997 bag

$2950.00, FENDI

Fendi Baguette bag

$3750.00, 24S

Fendi large Baguette bag

$3590.00, 24S

Fendi brown Baguette fabric bag

$3290.00, FENDI

Peekaboo

At the maison’s spring 2009 presentation, Venturini Fendi introduced the Peekaboo bag, which she deemed “the only occasion in which a woman would be recommended to walk around with an unfastened and unlocked bag.” The Peekaboo was designed with several compartments and a double closure so that it could technically be worn half open or half-closed, depending on your outlook on life. When partly fastened, the bag reveals a surprise color, texture, or contrasting leather instead—hence the name. Model Toni Garrn opened that show carrying a white Peekaboo bag crafted in a nubby cloth textile, and after her, variations of the bag in snakeskin and mesh followed. Like the Baguette, the Peekaboo materials vary each season, and on the label’s fall 2020 runway, Fendi tweaked the bag to look even more undone, dubbing it the Peekaboo I See U. Plus the interiors are interchangeable—one day your Peekaboo can flash a kelly green, and the next a subtle dove gray.

Fendi medium Peekaboo X-lite black leather bag

$4200.00, FENDI

Fendi medium Peekaboo I See U bag

$4700.00, 24S

Fendi mini Peekaboo bag in yellow and white FF vertigo leather

$4800.00, FENDI

Fendi Peekaboo leather tote

$6500.00, NET-A-PORTER

<cite class="credit">Photographed by Raymond Meier, <em>Vogue</em>, May 2003</cite>
Photographed by Raymond Meier, Vogue, May 2003

Croissant

The same year she introduced the Baguette, Venturini Fendi also gave us the Croissant, fresh out of the Fendi boulangerie. (Italians are known for their exaltation of carbs, after all.) Swooped like a crescent and cradled like a hobo bag, this purse features a flap closure with FF hardware and a strap that converts from short to long, depending on how you’d like to wear it—as a satchel or a shoulder bag. By the 2000s, there was a wait list for every version, including one sheathed in sequins, but the Croissant is most popular in a supple calf leather that ripples like, yes, French pastry, or a cloth monogram fabric. Currently Fendi offers the style in a chunky woven cotton textile in small and medium sizes. Consider the Croissant the slightly older, primmer sister of the Baguette.

Fendi small brown Croisssant leather bag

$1980.00, FENDI

Fendi small Croissant crocheted hobo bag

$2290.00, NORDSTROM

Fendi medium Croissant leather shoulder bag

$1980.00, NET-A-PORTER

Fendi small Croissant shoulder bag

$1980.00, BERGDORF GOODMAN

Originally Appeared on Vogue

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