Fashion is not about what you know, but who you know. As we set up the Thanksgiving dinner seating arrangements, making sure that no feuding siblings, rich patriarchs, or money-grabbing stepdaughters are too close to the knife, let’s look at some of the great fashion lines. Many of the most famous international houses are family-owned businesses that were often started in humble, working class families. You might be having trouble picturing Fendi as a mom-and-pop store.
There has been plenty of drama in the life of the family that created the double G logo. Gucci celebrates its 100th year anniversary this year. The treachery of this Italian fashion dynasty is the topic of Ridley Scott’s film House of Gucci, which was released in the US this month. It stars Lady Gaga as well as Adam Driver. Guccio Guccio founded the company in 1921. The company was passed through three generations but family disputes led to the expulsions of the remaining Guccis. In the 1990s, Tom Ford’s creative direction saw the company go public. Alessandro Michele, the current creative director, has worked in the company under both Ford and Frida Giannini. He was then appointed himself as the top position. This makes him an honorary family member.
Fratelli Prada (or Prada Brothers) was a leather goods distributor. Luxury house Prada was established in 1913. Mario and Martino were the siblings. Mario’s daughter Luisa took over the business in 1978 and her daughter Miuccia followed suit. In 1987, Miuccia married Patrizio Bertelli, her business partner. Prada’s groundbreaking ready-to-wear collection was launched in 1989. In 1992, Miu Miu was renamed after Miuccia’s nickname. These collections introduced a new visual language to fashion that has continued to resonate.
In 1953, Missoni, a small knitwear business in Varese in northern Italy was started by Ottavio & Rosita. Five years later they held their first Milan show. In 1996, a generational transfer of power saw Vittorio and Luca become marketing directors and Luca took over men’swear while Angela became the woman’swear director. Margherita, her granddaughter, returned from New York City where she was studying philosophy at Columbia University to be creative director at M Missoni in 2018. Margherita resigned earlier this year as part of an internal restructuring. Ottavio Jr and Giacomo were promoted within the company.
After the murder of her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace assumed control of the company’s name in 1997. This was perhaps the most tumultuous handoff in fashion history. Brother Santo was appointed CEO and received 30 percent of the company, while Donatella’s daughter Allegra received 50 percent. Donatella started strugling with a cocaine addiction once whe took on the responsibility of the business future. She is a cultural icon because of her vulnerability and her glamorous, high-octane glamour image.
Ralph Lauren is the head of America’s first fashion family. He started selling ties from his car trunk and built a multi-billion-dollar empire. His wife Ricky’s style heavily influenced him, and he named his most popular luxury purse after her. He works with son David, who holds the title of Chief innovation officer, strategic adviser to the CEO and vice chairman.
Adele Casagrande, who married Edoardo Fendi in 1925, founded Fendi in Rome as another Italian leather goods brand. Each of five daughters, Paola (Anna), Franca, Carla, and Alda were given 20% each. The family then sold the majority to LVMH in 1999. Silvia VenturiniFendi, Anna’s daughter and the creator of the Baguette purse is still an important figure in the company. She oversees accessories, menswear, and children’s collections. Delfina Delettrez is a jewelry designer and is also involved with the family business.
Giorgio Armani, the king of Italian fashion is valued at 7.5 billion dollars. However, he founded his company with Sergio Galeotti in 1975 on seed money from Armani’s Volkswagon. He doesn’t rule alone. Sister Rosanna, as well as Silvana and Roberta, his nieces, are involved in the business. Silvana is the head of womenswear, while Silvana is the PR manager. Since the founding of the company in 1987, speculation has been swirling about who will take the crown.
Former child actors Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen are the most well-known sister act in fashion. In 2005, they founded luxury label The Row. The Row is named after London’s unique epicenter, Savile Row. The brand has won multiple CFDA awards and is synonymous with minimalist luxury that’s traditionally associated with European fashion houses.
Salvatore Ferragamo was born into poverty and the eleventh child of 14 children. He opened a leather shop in Bonito, Italy, in 1912, at the tender age 13 years. He had already emigrated to America in 1923 and was known as “Shoemaker of the Stars”. He made shoes for Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson and others. His widow Wanda and six of their children took over the business in 1960.
The Arnaults are one of two dominant fashion families that cast a long shadow on all the others. Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, is the third-richest person on the planet. The company has four of his five children, including Delphine, director and executive vice president at Louis Vuitton and Antoine, who is married to Natalia Vodianova and is CEO and chair of Loro Piano.
Together with the Arnaults the Pinaults are the two main pillars of the global luxury industry. Francois Pinault, a businessman, founded Kering in 1963 as an timber-trading firm. Francois-Henri joined the company in 1987 and became President and CEO in 2013. This father-son duo has created an empire that includes Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent as well as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta. Pinault is married Selma Hayek, an actress with whom he has one child.