A country lacking in raw materials, but rich in style. Italy exports fashion, always. Italian stylists were and are among the most famous fashion designers in the world. Over time, Italian fashion has been able to influence the evolution of society. An inevitable mix of taste and culture, which has become a mark of quality and excellence. High fashion is Italian: yesterday, today, always.
Made in Italy on the catwalk: the origins of Italian fashion
The origins of Italian fashion coincide conventionally with a fashion show organized in 1951 by Giovanni Battista Giorgini at Villa Torrigiani, his luxurious Florentine residence. A revolution: on the catwalk they produced exclusively Italian sartorial creations. Those who at the time were the great Florentine, Milanese and Roman tailors gathered to give life to a collective fashion show. The challenge to the Parisian ateliers was launched. Completely new collections attracted the interest of the great American financiers. A brilliant intuition, that of Giovanni Battista Giorgini, exporter of handicraft products. The models proposed by Italian fashion ranged from haute couture to boutique models, from sports and leisure creations to half the French elite ones. “Cause for worry” wrote the “Time”: the Italians had gone to war and, with enormous concern by the French, would have been the only one who would have won. Simonetta, Carosa, Alberto Fabiani, the sisters Fontana and Emilio Schuberth, the tailors Vanna and Noberasco, the furs of Jole Veneziani, Giorgio Avolio, Franco Bertoli, Emilio Pucci. Everyone carved out their own space in that historic parade. It was the beginning of everything: in 1958 the Chamber of Commerce of the Italian Fashion was founded and, again in Rome, in 1959 Valentino opened his own fashion house. A further turning point came in the ’70s when high fashion was joined by prêt-à-porter: lower prices and wearable even in everyday life. Since the ’70s began the spread on the international market of many Italian stylistic brands, with innovative creations and combined with accessories of all kinds. The rest is History of Made in Italy to wear.
The Quadrilateral of Fashion: the great Italian cities dictate style to the whole world
Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia. Those who have never heard of one of these focal points of the city of Milan cannot consider themselves a fashion enthusiast. Here, within the Quadrilateral of Italian fashion, the watchword is luxury. Jewellers, boutiques and clothing, design and furniture showrooms along the streets of Italian gold. Other than the Bermuda triangle, the real disappearances take place in the Quadrilateral of Fashion: all the cash contained in the swollen wallets and the zeros on the accounts of the richest men and women on Earth disappear. The enchanted realm of shopping opens its doors to those who are not satisfied, to those looking for the best to live and to wear. And the best is Italian high fashion. During the famous Milan fashion week in these ateliers are presented a preview of the news of the world style. Capital of fashion par excellence. If all roads lead to Rome, all new trends go from Milan. But in a country as culturally alive as Italy it is reasonable to expect that there are other areas where fashion is the protagonist. And then you move further down, towards Via del Corso, Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti. In Rome, Italian fashion meets the artistic heritage of this country: ephemeral passions changing every season on one side, eternal pieces of history on the other. Then there is Florence, which ranks right in the ranking of fashion cities with the Pitti immagine event dedicated to men’s fashion. Between a cultural stage and the other, tourists flock to Italian high fashion shops, for the desire to bring home some of the beauty that has remained in the eye. Italian style becomes a dress for the most varied occasions, a second skin signed by the great Italian designers.
To keep the fame and prestige of Italian fashion high, the great names of the Made in Italy style, that every year present new collections on the catwalks around the world, are the result of the inspiration of the most famous designers. Here is a rundown of the main Italian fashion houses, names that have made and continue to make the history of global fashion, with a total turnover of over 90 billion euro.
DOLCE & GABBANA
“Italians know very well that it’s style that matters, not fashion, and Italian style has no class or age limits.” (Stefano Gabbana)
Much of the Italian style spread throughout the world has a surname, or rather two: Dolce & Gabbana. More than a brand, an Italian fashion universe, founded in Legnano in 1985 by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. From the collaboration between a Sicilian and a Milanese born the Italian fashion house preferred by international stars. A style that blends Mediterranean style with the trends of the moment. A fashion idea that has its roots in the southern tradition, with constant references to lace, embroidery, warm colours, the eccentric way of life of the people of the South. Some of the most famous faces of the world jet set have worn and continue to wear Dolce & Gabbana, becoming testimonials and ambassadors of the Italian brand in the world: Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Tina Turner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Bon Jovi, Monica Bellucci, Kylie Minogue, Fabio Cannavaro, Matthew McConaughey. Not just clothing: in the ’90s was born also Dolce & Gabbana fragrances, more famous for the associated ads than for the fragrances. From Capri to Palermo, the main beauties of the Italian territory have been chosen as protagonists of the Dolce & Gabbana spots. Because a fashion that wants to get far should never forget its roots.
“Elegance is not to be noticed, but to be remembered” (Giorgio Armani)
80 years. Owner of the second Italian fashion brand by turnover. It is the highest paid designer in the world. Yes, we are talking about Giorgio Armani. After leaving his medical studies to perform his military service, in 1957 he decided to overturn his life and present himself at the Rinascente’s door. On July 24, 1975 the Giorgio Armani was born, a label for men’s and women’s prêt-à-porter. The first collection signed by what will be defined as the “king of fashion” was played only on shades of white and blue, an original blue that will become the famous Blue Armani and that will be flanked by a colour shift between grey and sand, the famous greige. The career of that former medical student? An innovation after the other, like the destructured jacket. In the hands of Giorgio Armani, the men’s clothing item has been completely disassembled: the internal supporting cloths and the padding are removed, the buttons are moved and the straps changed. Then it’s up to women’s suits and women’s evening dresses. An unmistakable style, those of Armani, characterized by practicality and elegance, chosen for Alitalia uniforms in the 90s and for those of Italy in different Olympics. Unmistakable the white logo on the black t-shirt, confirming the sobriety of Italian fashion, which does not need unnecessary frills.
“What you wear is what you give of yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so fast. Fashion is an instant language “(Miuccia Prada)
A luxury leather shop opened in 1913 by Mario and Martino Prada in Milan, in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, was transformed into a travel accessories company for the aristocracy and then into the most desired Italian fashion house in the world. Miuccia Prada, nephew of the founder and creative director of the brand, is the prosecutor of the ugly-chic style, the ugly considered beautiful. The history of Prada is the story of a success pursued and achieved over time with commitment and tenacity, ideas and skills, sacrifices and investments, winning mentality and competitive spirit. She will create the symbol of the Prada style: the classic and elegant backpack made of black nylon, which has become an icon of Italian fashion.
Shoes, leather, glasses, bags, and, since 1998, also a sports line, the famous red line, official sponsor of the “Luna Rossa” team at the America’s sailing Cup. Prada is also the story of a marriage, that between Miuccia and Patrizio Bertelli, managing director of the company. An union that has managed to conquer a place of honor among the stars of international fashion.
“My style? Timeless, that means: solid, made of substance and not small sensational effects. Powerful, a fashion really designed to give power to women. “(Valentino)
The last emperor of Italian high fashion. In 1959, after years spent studying in Paris and then alongside Guy Laroche, he opened an atelier in Rome. His clothes were designed for a woman who wanted to emphasize her femininity and sensuality, but without renouncing elegance. His style has always been recognizable for his attention to draping and pleating, animal themes, references to the art world (famous are his collections inspired by Klimt, Hoffmann and the Renaissance painters). Above all, the totalizing passion for red stands out, which has become a personalized nuance, a shade created especially for him, a symbol of recognition: the “Valentino red”, between carmine, purple and cadmium red. 45 years of history in which he has dressed the most beautiful women on the planet: Jacqueline Kennedy became his inspiring muse. And even today, after his retirement from the scene, his name continues to tell the world one thing: high Italian fashion.
“I think it’s the responsibility of a stylist try to break the rules and barriers.” (Versace)
Reggio Calabria, the ’50s, the little Gianni plays in the tailoring of his mother, together with his brother Santo and his sister Donatella. March 28th 1978: in Milan the same Gianni presents the first collection of his life. This is how the Versace myth is born. An eclectic style for a sexy and glamorous woman, for a sure and brash man. In 1982 Versace invented the oroton, that is the interlocking mesh of metal elements; then the “Africa” fabric in which a thin nylon thread is coupled with a thread of viscose and then treated to obtain its famous transparencies; in 1984 the references to contemporary art begin. In the 90s Gianni Versace invents the figure of the “top model“: from a simple model, the model becomes an inspiring muse, protagonist of the fashion show, perfect embodiment of the designer’s idea, the dress is not worn by the person, is designed for the person . Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, Helena Christensen. That little tailor enters the legend, and even his “end” is legendary: Gianni died in 1997 in Miami at the hands of a serial killer. It will be up to his sister Donatella Versace to take over the Medusa maison, a symbol of the brand and to give continuity to her brother’s dreams, to the most unscrupulous advertising campaigns ever appeared and to the very strong bond with the most famous personalities of the international music world who still choose Italian high fashion, which still choose Versace.
“If you cannot be elegant, be at least extravagant” (Franco Moschino)
An ironic reflection on society. This is the goal of the fashion house founded by Franco Moschino in 1983. Colourful, exaggerated, extravagant clothes, reinvented. The Italian stylist starts from the classics and desecrates them, dismounts them, exaggerates them, with huge accessories and bright colours. Polka dots, stripes, prints worthy of Harlequin, fruit, hearts, international symbols such as peace, matelassé bags, great golden earrings in a circle: impossible to recognize the Moschino style, a “cheap and chic” style. Everything that seemed far from Italian high fashion, thanks to Franco Moschino, enters right into the world of Made in Italy luxury. Elegant? No, Moschino.
“I consider myself an artist, with the only difference that my creations are worn, don’t hang it on a wall.” (Roberto Cavalli)
It was 1972 when Cavalli first arrived on the catwalk of Palazzo Pitti and Milano Collezioni. In the same year he opened his first boutique in Saint Tropez. His fashion is above all anti-conformism, provocation, aggressive sensuality. Leather, denim, animals prints. A well-defined style that identifies a Cavalli leader all over the world. Experimenting is the keyword: experimentation on fabrics, glamor inspired by nature. Roberto Cavalli brings out the wild attitude, transfers pure instinct on the fabrics, to allow us to wear the animal that is in us.
“Rewriting the past for me is a way not to trivialize clothes and not haunt me on the lengths of the hems. What interests me, in fact, is telling a story, and if someone sees us torn apart from other stories, well come “(Alessandro Michele)
The words of the last creative director of the Gucci fashion house start from the present to trace back to the past of one of the most famous Italian fashion houses in the world, which has made the link with the past one of its values. Over 90 years of history, a very heavy legacy for Italian fashion. It all started in Florence in 1921 when Guccio Gucci decided to open a company specialized in leather goods and a small shop in the city center. Success was immediate. There were many requests from the equestrian world and from these derived one of the symbols of the brand: the clamp. In the 1950s, for the first time, the green / red / green weft tape became the Gucci flag, and in the 60s the logo of the two crossed G was born. Hollywood stars went crazy for the brand and Gucci opened offices all over the world. Despite the international context, the Tuscan fashion house has never lost its profound Made in Italy identity. The icons of the brand are changed, but never abandoned, like the Flora print, the Guccissima leather and the Jackie O and Bamboo bags, worn by the myths of every time.
“A dress is sensuality when it moves tied with the body. It’s ostentation when it covers you and dazzles you. It’s emotion. It’s noise, rustling. A silent dress is a null, useless dress. “(Gianfranco Ferrè)
A white shirt like canvas, his imagination as inspiration, needle and thread like brush and colours. A unisex garment, sensual on the woman, elegant for the man. An essential piece of everyone’s wardrobe, versatile, decomposable and reworked in infinite variations. The Italian fashion architect Gianfranco Ferrè treated it like a real design object. In 1978 he decided to found Gianfranco Ferré Spa, giving life to the first line of pret-a-porter and women’s accessories signed by one of the indelible names of the Made in Italy style. In 1989 Ferré became creative director of the French fashion house Christian Dior, and shaped the brand with his particular vision of femininity. It disappears in 2007 leaving the orphan fashion world of its “elegance lexicon”.
“I do not buy designer clothes, I wear what I like.” (Ottavio Missoni)
An anti-conformist, Ottavio Missoni, who has always thought about doing his job well, without worrying about the outline. One of the most famous fashion brands in the world links its destiny to the Italian fashion family, the Missoni family, in fact. In 1953 Ottavio and his wife Rosita Jelmini founded a laboratory in Gallarate, in the province of Varese, and a factory in Sulmirago. In 1958 the first fashion show attracted the attention of the insiders and in the 70s the brand’s global success came. From father to son, from generation to generation, the Missoni legacy is collected by the couple’s three children. Under the new direction born the passion for fabrics, which, together with the prints, have become a trademark Missoni, which makes the garments recognizable at first sight. After the loss of the pillars of the family, the Missoni continue to be successful Italian fashion entrepreneurs. The colourful and geometric patterns tell a lot more about what you see: behind every Missoni signature garment there is the story of an Italian family.
“In the homologation brought by ‘globalization’, the mastery expressed by the ancient crafts is to be safeguarded on a par with works of art.” (Carla Fendi)
A small fur shop with an adjoining workshop in Via del Plebiscito in Rome that opened Edoardo Fendi and Adele Casagrande in 1925. The cornerstone of what would become a luxury empire. The founding value of the great Italian fashion house is Made in Italy craftsmanship, guarded over time by the five daughters of the couple, the famous Fendi sisters: Paola, Anna, Franca, Carla and Alda. The collaboration with the iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld marks the definitive turning point. In 1966 the double F logo was initially used as an invisible lining of luggage, which has now become a symbol of luxury. Alongside the craft furs began to appear entire collections of pret-à-porter clothes. A success that continues unchanged over the years, without ever having lost the attention for the great Italian craftsmanship tradition.