Carla Fendi, one of the five Fendi sisters who transformed the family business into a mega luxury fashion house, died in Rome on Monday after a long illness. She was 79. Each sister—Paola, Anna, Franca, and Alda, all of whom were born between 1931 and 1940—had their own role at the company. While the others were known for being the creative forces, Carla largely focused on the brand’s marketing and PR, and served as president until the Fendi family sold their business to LVMH in 1999. She was honorary president until her death. The sisters opened the first Fendi store in 1964 and brought on Karl Lagerfeld in 1966, who has stayed with the brand for over 50 years. Carla “was the driving force behind everything and had a real vocation for PR” Lagerfeld told Harper’s Bazaar last year. “She was kind of a genius.” Fendi has long been known for its use of fur, continued by Lagerfeld. Animal rights activists have frequently protested the house’s use of furs, but Carla stayed firm. “At Fendi, fur was never out,” she told The Daily Mail in 2005. ‘”We have never stopped using it and have always treated it as the most luxurious fabric. People say fur is back because women want the freedom to wear whatever they want.”
Later in life, Carla served as a chief patron of the Two Worlds arts festival in Spoleto. Between Carla and her four sisters, the family includes 11 children and more than 30 grandchildren.