Italian Designers and Their Geographical Muses

One of Armani’s first jobs was window dresser at La Rinascente department store

Select Italy loves September. It represents a change of season and a new beginning.  It is the time for a change of wardrobe involving the resurrection of warm favorites and the buying of new clothes. It is during this transition from summer to fall that we find one of the most important events of the year: fashion week.

Fashion week is an event that allows designers, brands or fashion houses to display their latest collections on the runway in front of buyers and the media. Basically they set the tone for the following season. The most prominent fashion weeks are held in the “big 4”, or the four fashion capitals of the world: Paris New York, London and Milan.

Italian fashion is mostly associated with Milan. Rightly so, if you have ever experienced the elegant coolness of the Quadrilatero d’oro, or the golden triangle, made up of some of the most fashionable streets on the planet and the world’s first shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. However, being paid homage, each designer has their own distinct roots and inspiration that is often drawn from certain cities and regions. So in honor of fashion week, which is being held in Milan from September 18 – 23, Select Italy experts have composed a list of five major Italian brands and their respective geographical muses.

Giorgio Armani and Milan

The Milanese are known for their understated elegance, with emphasis being placed on quality of fabric, soberness and simplicity. Although Rome is the political capital of Italy, Milan is its economic and financial heart. The Milanese certainly do not have time to be frivolous and therefore depend on timeless classics. Re Giorgio, or King Giorgio as he his called, is often credited with having made the “Made in Italy” stamp synonymous with excellence through his impeccable tailoring and simple yet elegant designs that helped put Milan on the fashion map.

Gucci and Florence

Gucci G

The Gucci G insignia is a worldwide symbol of status

One of the most important things for a designer or fashion house is brand recognition. Just as Florence is recognized for having the highest art concentration in the world relative to its size, the Gucci G insignia is a worldwide symbol of status. In 1921 Guccio Gucci probably could not have predicted that his small, family run luggage company specializing in handbags and suitcases in a city know for its leather works would grow to become one of the best known and most coveted brands in Italian fashion.

Versace and Calabria

On the toe of the Italian boot is Reggio Calabria, birthplace of Gianni and Donatella Versace. It is a region known for its beautiful beaches, exotic magnolias, palm trees, and bergamot cultivated for perfume. It is also the land of the ‘Ndrangheta’, Italy’s most powerful crime syndicate whose name is derived from the Greek verb “to engage in a defiant and valiant attitude”. Indeed, Calabrian blood does run in the veins of the Versace family. Know for being a rebel, Gianni Versace once declared, “I don’t believe in good taste”. He passed this attitude onto his little sister, Donatella, whom he called his accomplice and his muse. Inspired by their mother, a dressmaker, and the beauty and fantasy of their native land, their designs exude femininity, luxury and glamour. Upon Gianni’s untimely death in 1997, Donatella took over the family business, which she continues to run with all the fervor that one would expect from a Versace.

Dolce & Gabbana and Sicily

From the island of lemons, pistachio and sugar cane came Domenico Dolce, son of a tailor and a fabric vendor. In Milan he met Stefano Gabbana, who studied graphic design and advertising. In the 20 years of their collaboration this fantastic duo has found inspiration in Dolce’s native Sicily and its rich cultural heritage. Together they made the Sicilian widow famous with her look of black lace and long cross necklaces.  Their campaigns often highlight the traditional large Sicilian family and their creations have graced the curvy figures of Italian beauties such as Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci.

bvlgari jewelry

A fabulous Bvlgari bracelet

Bvlgari and Rome

They say that the ancient Romans were greatly influenced by the Greeks. So how fitting that founder Sotirios Voulgaris, or Sotirio Bulgari in Italian, descended from a line of Greek silversmiths, opening his shop in Rome in 1884. His sons followed in his footsteps, drawing inspiration from their Greek roots and classical Roman culture.  They even used the traditional Latin letter u, for the v, when spelling their name. Bvlgari jewelry is easily recognized by its bold, sophisticated and unmistakable style, married with meticulous attention to quality and innovative design. Indeed, it is an elegance as timeless as the Eternal City herself.

Have you ever been to Milan’s fashion week? What was your favorite part?




2 thoughts on “Italian Designers and Their Geographical Muses

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