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V&A: The Glamour of Italian Fashion

The connection between Italy and fashion seems self-evident. Milan reigns as one of the four global fashion capitals. Many of the iconic houses hail from Italy. And some—perhaps the vast majority--of the world’s most beautiful luxury goods and materials are produced there. But it wasn’t always the case that Italy and fashion went hand-in-hand. ‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion,” the new blockbuster exhibit at London’s Victoria & Albert museum, explores Italy’s fashion ascendance, focusing on the designers, organizations and personalities who helped it evolve into the industry powerhouse we know today.
The exhibition displays photographs, films and about 100 looks and accessories loaned by leading Italian fashion houses, including, of course, Valentino. And it pays homage to figures instrumental to promoting Italian fashion abroad—everyone from Giovanni Battista Giorgini, who began staging the Sala Bianca catwalk shows at the Pitti Palace in Florence in the early 1950s, to post-war couturiers such as Mila Schön, to  Mr. Valentino’s great friend, Elizabeth Taylor, who became enamored of Italian fashions when she came to Rome to film Cleopatra.
As curator Sonnet Stanfill told British Vogue, “Italian fashion is a story of rags to riches almost, as the post-war country recovers and becomes a key place for manufacture, design and entrepreneurial risk taking that cuts right across businesses.”
Needless to say, Valentino is a major presence at the show. The exhibition includes approximately 120 ensembles and accessories from leading Italian fashion houses, including a red tulle Valentino couture dress from 1977, and it emphasizes the role that Hollywood stars played as ambassadors of Italian fashion in the 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Valentino was a leader in this Hollywood movement, creating close personal relationships with many of the actresses in his clientele.
These days, Mr. Valentino’s friends have no less sway. To wit, he and Mr. Giammetti arrived at the V&A for the opening gala with Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani on their arms! And Mr. Giammetti put his own spin on Italian glamour, 21st Century-style, posting snaps from the event on April 1st to his jetset Instagram. One of the highlights? A grinning Eva Herzigova posing with Mr. Valentino, who looked typically debonair.



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