Spotlight on the unique, progressive and without-limits style that has characterised the country’s apparel since the late 19th century.
From knitwear by Missoni, beautifully crafted accessories by Gucci and futuristic shapes designed by Miuccia Prada to iconic furs by Fendi and bespoke tailoring by Smalto – as worn in 1950s films and by Italian Romeos and bombshells in the following decades – Italian fashion continues to win fans every generation. The popularity of Milan Fashion Week is testament to that. Founded in 1958, it stands out from other capital-city fashion events for the exquisite tailoring and fine fabrics it showcases. But Italian fashion existed long before that.
Expertise in the blood
From the late 19th century, Milan’s plethora of tailors attracted fashion-conscious men looking for bespoke suits and shirts made in ateliers boasting great expertise, meticulous standards and simple, top-quality tailoring. Champions of modern classicism, these artisans went on to achieve worldwide fame. Among them was Ermenegildo Zegna, founded in 1910, which continues to grow today thanks to its brand new artistic director, Alessandro Sartori. Italian designers are multi-talented. They are pragmatic, with a flair for grasping trends and adapting them in line with their innate know-how. Designer Miuccia Prada excels in that domain. As avant-garde as ever, she’s injecting her love of life and exuberance into her designs this season. The keywords of her collection include glen check, transparent skirts, precious details, wide stripes, astrakhan coats and sculptural sequined fabrics. This brand of craziness can also be found at Miu Miu, where womenswear is breaking rules, with underwear as outerwear, large neon shawls, houndstooth with a twist, oversized coats and its own take on sportswear. Italian style clearly never loses its capacity to make us dream. The label Blumarine drew in a host of stars for the reopening of its store on Avenue Montaigne in March. Olivia Palermo, Kelly Rowland, Eva Doll and Zuo An Xiao were in attendance to discover Anna Molinari’s romantic, delicate collection.
Casual chic and sport couture
It was Italian designers who invented casual chic – well before its time! Emilio Pucci and Salvatore Ferragamo spearheaded the concept as early as the 1950s. That same decade, Missoni first created its colourful knitwear to worldwide acclaim. The euphoria still continues today with vertical, horizontal and zigzag colour blocks. Angela Missoni draws her inspiration from Africa; wide trousers, long dresses, Maasai beads, football shirts and tribal prints bring far-off lands to the brand’s style. Valentino, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli also invite us on an exotic journey with their catwalk armies of tribal-style warriors. Giorgio Armani’s followers include some of the most beautiful women in the world. On the red carpet at the Oscars, Cate Blanchett looked dazzling in an Armani dress. Even Leonardo Di Caprio, who finally won a Golden Globe, chose to wear a suit by the Italian designer. His more affordable Emporio Armani line boasts sportier styles and appeals to younger buyers. Fashionistas love its flowing lines and full volumes that allow the wearer to move freely. With leather bloomers, bowling bags and organza flowers, Mr Armani knows how to appeal to today’s women. Femininity, yes, but without limits. The same easy spirit is found at Fendi, where Karl Lagerfeld has held the reins since 1965. The collection is built on red and white, balloon mini-skirts, floral embellishments and python accessories. Since 2000, Ermanno Scervino has been developing its own brand of luxury based on the concept of sport couture, as worn by its new muse, Elisa Sednaoui. Photographed by Peter Lindbergh, the model and actress of Italian, Egyptian and French descent perfectly embodies the sensual collection in mikado silk and lace. A real Madonna.
In the footsteps of Italian glamour
Although many Italian brands design clothing for all lifestyle scenarios, others prefer to concentrate on a specific sector. That’s true of Moncler, originally a French company but now Italian, which rose to fame for its luxurious goose-down jackets, as well as Malo, founded in Tuscany in the 1970s, which has put soft cashmeres at its core, and Furla, which is devoted to fine leather goods. Baldinini has been making shoes for women everywhere for over a century. Every day 500 pairs are handmade in its San Mauro Pascoli workshops. Gimmy Baldinini, its more exclusive capsule collection, is testament to the brand’s high standards. Designed like sculptures, the shoes are adorned with features like double satin fringes, Chantilly lace, Swarovski crystals, crackled kangaroo leather and micro-sequins. As for Casadei, it has been anticipating women's desires since 1958; this season its stilettos flaunt the soft hues, iridescent sheens and python prints found in all on-trend wardrobes. Shoemaker to the stars Giuseppe Zanotti has carved a special place for himself alongside footwear greats Sergio Rossi, René Caovilla and Cesare Paciotti thanks to his high fashion, sports chic and rock ‘n’ roll models. They are the go-to shoes of modern-day dandies and ‘it’ girls wanting to stand out from the crowd. This season’s must for men is the Smiley loafer studded with the famous smile motif, while fashionistas can’t resist his Samantha high heels adorned with a metal chain. When they’re not succumbing to the glamour of the glittery Emmanuelle model, that is.