It’s been a fashion packed Spring! After visiting the Vogue Festival last weekend, I went to the exhibition “The Glamour of Italian Fashion from 1945 – 2014” at London’s V&A Museum in South Kensington.
The exhibition attempts to answer the question of why the Italians own chic, glamour and produce top designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferre, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Pucci and Versace.
It takes a closer look at how Italy’s fashion industry emerged from the poverty of WW2, with the help of the American Marshall Plan, and how it changed Italy’s image and fortune.
The first room of the exhibition is telling the story of businessman Giovanni Battista Giorgini, who persuaded his contacts in US department stores to travel to Florence for fashion shows displaying designs from all over Italy. The shows were an instant hit and launched the fashion industry in Italy. Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Elizabeth Taylor helped cement Italy’s image as fashion capital with impossibly glamorous performances in ‘50s films shot in Italy.
Audrey Hepburn in a dress by Fernanda Gattinoni for the movie “War and Peace”. these were the “Glory Years” of Italian fashion
Above: A stunning 1950s silk cocktail dress in millefeuille layers of scalloped violet silk by Roberto Capucci. Out of the 1950s designers like Simonetta, Capucci and Mila Schoen, only the House of Pucci remains relevant today.
To this day, the “Made in Italy” trademark stands for high quality materials and artisanal craftsmanship. The country boasts strong traditions, hundreds of years old, in industries like spinning, dyeing, weaving, cutting, and stitching. Such skills were often passed down from generation to generation, and laid the foundation for Italy’s rise to the top of the style world.
Left: Miuccia Prada’s recent design for SS2014. Right: Prada’s innovative dip dye dress, 2004. Miuccia took a home-made colouring process and made it look elegant and sophisticated.
The iconic Baguette Bag from Fendi. The name Baguette bag derives from size of the bag which is small enough to carry under the arm like a loaf of bread.
This exhibition is also interesting because it’s running during a time of change in Italy’s fashion industry. A short documentary at the end of the exhibition claims that a lot of Italy’s designers are over 70 years old and fresh blood needs to be given a chance to build the foundation and the future of Italy’s fashion industry.
I love Italian fashion for it’s impeccable tailoring. You don’t need to buy high-end brands like Valentino to get this kind of quality. Shops like Max & Co (Max Mara’s little sister) offer more affordable style whilst maintaining the exquisite artisan spirit of Italy. Here I am wearing a floral dress from Max Mara, sandals from AGL, Attilio Giusti Leombruni and cross body bag from Moschino.