22 July 2014

Making a fashion statement in Italian style

The Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition takes us through the impact of Italian fashion from 1945-2014. I felt privileged to attend the press preview representing CreateVoice, witnessing how Italy became one of the leading countries in fashion design during this period. Not only does the V&A exhibition showcase a collection of over ninety glamorous garments, but we are given an educational trip about how to rule the fashion industry - Italian style.

When there is bad news, make it good news
The Second World War has just ended, Italy is stricken with poverty, and the world is seeking something new and exciting for Fashion after Dior’s New Look from 1947. Italy used fashion as a means of recovery during this period, climbing to the top of the trend setting ladder and becoming one of the most influential countries in regards to style worldwide.

It’s ok to start small
It’s hard to believe Italy’s fashion empire began with Giovanni Battista Giorgini’s first fashion show in Florence, 1951. He held the show in his own home and convinced designers across Italy to showcase their pieces alongside his own, with all parties benefiting by contributing to this new emerging culture. Designers involved who made a name of themselves included The Fashion House Vanna, who were known for their tailored women’s suits; Capucci, who became known for his inventive sculpture style and Germana Marucelli who became known as the ‘cerebral seamstress’.

Connect and Network
Giorgini started to receive attention from the US and across Europe including Paris, London and Berlin but this attention did not happen overnight. Giorgini was a true believer in what we would now call marketing, he wanted the world to know what Italy could do. The exhibition captured the value of hard work to Giorgini, displaying letters which he sent, including one to journalist Irene Brin and a letter to a department store notifying them of his events. He also formed personal relationships with clients, organising parties and events to create a name for himself prior to his fashion shows.

Reach the World
It was only a matter of time before Giorgini’s fashion shows attracted global audiences. Carmel Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Irene Brin, the American fashion magazine’s Rome Editor brought Italian fashion into a larger readership by featuring the work of Italian designers in their well read publication.

Some of Hollywood’s biggest films from this period were also shot in Italy, and the costumes were made by Italian designers. Loyal clients from this time included Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Maria Callas. It seemed Italy could not escape the public eye.

Another significant event from this period, was American author, Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, where many of the outfits worn were made by Italy’s couturiers. Mila Schön, who created garments for this event, has two of her pieces exhibited. These are precisely decorated with sequins and beading which gave an elegant evening look.

Gowns by Mila Schön from 1966, at the V&A’s The Glamour Of Italian Fashion

Leave a Legacy
Today Italy is known for its manufacture of top quality fabrics and material; including wools, leathers and silks. Made in Italy has become a stamp for quality fashion. Italy continued to leave prints on designers, influencing even today’s top fashion houses including Armani, Mani, MiuMiu and ­­­­Cavalli. As a whole this exhibition demonstrates the making of a legacy.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 runs until 27th July 2014

Find out more about this exhibition on the website and the exhibition blog.

Words by: Piarvé Wetshi 
Images courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum

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