The Exhibition offers a comprehensive look at the fashion that flourished from post Second World War to modern day. It allows you to walk through a timeline of fashion houses and key designers that contributed the exceptional quality of techniques, materials and expertise for which Italy has become renowned.
In a time where Italy was in economical disarray and in ruin from the aftermath of the Second World War, it’s hard to believe that Italy was soon to become a future source of leading fashion. The turning point arrived in the form of Giovanni Battista Giorgini who first introduced the world to Italian design and craftsmanship with his 1951 fashion show, held at his home in Florence. He used his connections with American department stores to curate a small audience of buyers from New York and San Francisco, launching high fashion designs by the likes of Fabiani, Fontana and Simonetta to a new market. The fashion show was warmly received by both the buyers and press, which created huge enthusiasm and momentum and in July 1951 Giorgini held a second ‘Sala Blanca’ show.
The late 1950’s & 60s saw Italian fashion’s fame grow both on and off the silver screen which brings us to my favorite part of the exhibition…
Hollywood put Italy in the public eye with many films shot on location in Rome, this had an enormous impact on fashion. With Audrey Hepburn shooting “Roman holiday” and Elizabeth Taylor on set of the Hollywood hit “Cleopatra”, they both became ambassadors of Italian fashion. Italy’s publicity was booming and stars were often holidaying on the Amalfi coast. The Exhibition showcased the stunning Bulgari Emerald necklace, brooch and ring given to her by Richard Burton during the filming of Cleopatra, where their love affair began.
A great strength of the exhibition is the presence of material samples and original designs alongside finished pieces, which brought the designs to life with outstanding authenticity. Missioni knitwear was displayed next to wool samples and a Mila Schon gown was seen from initial pen on paper sketch to final product, a dress that Lee Radziwill (sister of Jackie Kennedy) wore to the 1966 Black & White Ball. The colour theme was inspired by Cecil Beaton’s costume designs for the Ascot scene in “My Fair Lady”; the ball was pronounced “The party of the year” according to Gloria Steinem’s report in American Vogue.
The penultimate section of the exhibition showcased garments from 1970 to 1994, from Italian designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Fendi, Missoni and Moschino. It showed how the craftsmanship and extravagant design of early Italian ateliers has maintained throughout the century.