Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Gucci, Missoni, miu miu, Moschino, Prada and Valentino. This is a list of just some of the most prominent brands in Italian fashion. It is fair to say, that while most think of Paris as the sartorial centre of the world, Italy has provided, and continues to provide a spectacular range of fashion. The nation’s clothing history is now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The title of the exhibition includes ‘glamour’, a word that suggests appeal, attraction and enchantment. Glamour is probably the only word that I can think of to describe what is on display. There are no track suits or leggings here. Instead, the exhibition has been filled with evening wear, fine jewellery and stunning shoes. Unlike the circular space which has recently been used for the V & A’s fashion exhibitions, this show moves across one floor through gallery to gallery. These galleries are larger with more room to walk around the pieces and to take in the pieces without being over-crowded with fellow gallery-goers, and is definitely an improvement.
The exhibition, which moves chronologically from the post-war period to contemporary fashion, moves chronologically throughout time. Craftsmanship and design remains consistent throughout, showing that despite rising competition from new economies and technologies, the craft and dominance of Italian fashion shows no sign of waning.
The opening shows suits made post war with letters from clients, dress-makers, designers and vogue editors. Later there is a gallery shows two lines of mannequins in designs which include a stunning Moschino blazer as well as a dress embellished with a map of Italy. As we move through, Bulgari jewellery given to Elizabeth Taylor from Richard Burton dazzles and shines, almost eclipsing the clothes. Other accessories on display include Ferragamo and Prada shoes. However, there appears no be sign of handbags, scarves or sunglasses, which might have been nice.
The final room appears to be the most impressive. It is set with dramatic lighting and mannequins are clothed in designs from the last few seasons with contemporary print advertisements. The gallery is probably set this way to emphases the continuing dominance of Italian design and influence in the fashion world, illustrating that the modern fashion of Italy is just as beautiful as its history. The show then concludes with a film featuring the likes of Franca Sozzani (Editor of Vogue Italia) and Angela Missoni (the current womenswear designer in the family run line which was founded in 1953), talking about the history and future of Italian fashion and the difficulties it faces, and how it is responding to them.
The exhibition reminds us of the high number of incredible Italian designers. My main critique would be that the show probably would have been more appropriately staged later in the year as most of the clothes seemed geared toward Winter. However, the show is beautiful regardless.