Another month, another fashion exhibition! I was particularly fond of this one, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, as it deals with a couple of underlying themes close to my heart – history and cinema – reminding us that the evolution of Italian fashion is closely related to its political, social and cinematographic context.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 examines the impact of the many Hollywood films that were shot on location in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, stars like Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) and Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) became style ambassadors for Italian fashion, fuelling a keen international appetite for luxurious clothing made in Italy.
Memories suddenly come flooding back in my head when thinking of the Cinecittà studios in Rome…that scene when Anita Ekberg emerged from the Fontana di Trevi in La Dolce Vita, the birth of Italian neorealism in Rome, Open City or, perhaps more famously, for hosting the sets of Cleopatra where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met on set. Burton apparently said that “The only word Liz knows in Italian is Bulgari”. She didn’t need to enlarge her vocabulary when she spoke the “magic” word as Burton treated her with a massive Bulgari necklace set in platinum with diamonds and emeralds as part of her engagement gift. That piece was displayed at the V&A as part of the exhibition and was certainly very impressive to look at.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion focuses on the defining factors unique to the Italian fashion industry – the use of luxurious materials; expert textile production; specialist, regional manufacturing; and its strength as a source of both dynamic menswear and glamorous womenswear.
On display are around 120 ensembles and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferré, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Pucci and Versace, through to the next generation of talent including couture by Giambattista Valli, bold ready-to-wear from Fausto Puglisi and work from Valentino’s designer duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. It also highlights the creativity of influential but less remembered figures such as post-war couturiers Sorelle Fontana (Fontana sisters) and Mila Schön and design innovators such as Walter Albini.
The exhibition is still showing in London until July 27th.
All above pictures are courtesy of the V&A Museum