Is glamour an italian job? Do they do it better? These questions may be answered by The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum’s latest exhibition. Curated by Sonnet Stanfill, ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945 - 2014’ explores the full scope of glamour in the Italian fashion industry - delving deep beyond the familiar catwalk looks to look at the defining factors, such as the development of the renowned Italian style, designers and their stories, its regional specialization in textile production, masterful manufacturing techniques, use of luxurious materials as well as the economy of the fashion and textile industries. “Glamour in Italy means simplicity and understatement as well,” explains Lucia Savi, research assistant at the V&A, “then on the other hand, also beautifully crafted materials - leather, wool and other fabrics. You can be glamorous by wearing a nicely cut dress with confidence.
”Walk into the exhibition space and it is like a trip to Florence as one is surrounded by a rich influx of art, design, and craftsmanship. Full time research on the topic commenced two years ago, taking Ms. Stanfill to 30 archives all over Italy to select only the most representative and most iconic materials, which defined the change of style as something avant grade whether in terms of design or with the use of materials. On display at the comprehensive exhibition are 100 ensembles and accessories from faded houses to famous brands to new talent on the block. This includes couture gowns, knitwear as well as ready to wear outfits from designers, such as Fausto Puglisi, Maria Grimaldi and Valentino, swimsuits by Emilio Pucci, shoes from Salvatore Ferragamo’s archive, men’s tailored suits by Rubinacci, as well as Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari diamonds and emeralds jewels given to her by Richard Burton as an engagement gift.
“Fashion goes hand in hand with social life and culture and of course political events,” says Ms. Savi, “and we’ve been trying to tell this story without forgetting that it’s all connected to history.” As women’s role in society change post war, the evolution of the image of glamour is especially reflected through fashion advertising in the exhibition. These images not only show a change of aesthetics but also attitude indicating the different phases of glamour.
The glorious moments which placed Italian fashion on the world map are celebrated in the exhibition. See footage of G. B. Giorgini’s first ‘Sala Bianca’ catwalk show held in Florence in 1951 and remember the outstanding achievements of designers who are no longer working. One of which is Walter Albini, who was the first to move his fashion show from Florence to Milan. “He was a new breed of designer. He was not just a designer, but what the Italians call ‘Lo Stilista’,” says Ms. Savi referring to a role which combines that of a designer, stylist and mediator interacting between buyers, press and the public.
Of course, closely associated to designs made in Italy is its pride on quality. This is highlighted in the exhibition with a digital map, which reveals the specialized network of fashion and textile producers and manufacturers all across Italy.
The last section of the exhibition brings the subject to the future with a video installation interviewing six leading figures from different sectors of the Italian fashion industry, including editor in chief of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani, Angela Missoni, and Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli.
This is a unique opportunity to see rare and exemplary fashion from this time period, as something of this breadth has not been done before anywhere else - not even in Italy.
'The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945 - 2014', sponsored by Bulgari, runs till July 27th 2014 at the V&A. Tickets now available at http://www.vam.ac.uk/italianfashion.
Opening Image: Gianfranco Ferre advert, photography by Gian Paolo Barbieri. 1991