Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Theories abound as to when ITALIAN STYLE first garnered world attention. One thing is certain: the spotlight is unlikely to dim any time soon...

Italian fashion was born with fabric, much of it created just after the turn of the century in the hilly mountainside villages that dotted the northern and southern Italian landscape. Even today, Italian fabric is synonymous with the most creative weaves, patterns, colors and textures. These are exquisite cloths that designers all over the world seek out as an integral part of the style, elegance and innovation in their collections.

Likewise, these towns gave birth to many of Italy's legendary tailors, men who would ultimately be responsible for establishing and defining Italian fashion. The combination of the world's most beautiful fabrics and the tradition of fine tailoring is powerful, earning Italy a starring role in the arena of world fashion.

Of course technology has also played a key role in why the fashion spotlight is focused on Italy these days. For example, the country has pioneered the introduction of super lightweight fabrics that are as comfortable as they are handsome. This has enabled Italian designers to turn out new styles of clothing that drape beautifully without sacrificing shape or line. Few countries can boast the widespread creativity that thrives within its textile industry.

The fact that Italian fashion is rooted in fine tailoring may well explain its longevity. But Italy is unique in that creativity is always rewarded. As much as there is respect for the past and their tailoring traditions, newness and innovation is embraced. Italian fashion ranges from the classic to the imaginative.

Sergio Loro Piana in the cool, comfortable style that his company's fabrics brought to the fashion world.

While Rome has its standard bearers in such venerable names as Brioni, Caraceni, Piatelli and Valentino, Milan boasts important fashion houses such as Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Gianfranco Ferre and Ermenegildo Zegna, all of whom turn out collections best described as an artful fusion of tailored clothing and casual sportswear.

The namesake of his family company, Ermenegildo "Gildo" Zegna personifies Italian elegance.

From the beginning, the Milanese designers got the world's attention with clothes that were young, casual, sophisticated, brimming with new ideas and remarkably well made. As the Nineties unfolded, two younger Milanese designers, Franco Moschino and Romeo Gigli, began steering Italian fashion in other directions. Moschino's genius was his ability to lampoon fashion in general with wit and style, striking a responsive chord, if not in the funny bone, in the psyche of global fashion. Gigli, not unlike the Japanese designers who were his muses, brought a deconstructed wistfulness to his women's collections and reduced his men's fashion designing to bare bones minimalism while staying relevant and thought-provoking with his shapes, fabrics and colors.

In many ways Gigli paved the way for two of the hottest Italian names in accessories to carve their own ready-to-wear niche right out of Milan's fashion establishment, Gucci and Prada. To be sure, Gucci has proven beyond a doubt that older Italian fashion houses never die but instead are reborn in new and imaginative ways.

Iconoclast designer Romeo Gigli continually brings new ideas and wit to otherwise familiar tailoring forms

While designers and manufacturers alike are continually moving forward, the one constant is that their ideas in fashion never compromise quality. Italy enjoys a celebrated reputation for quality. It is a standard to which most other countries strive to meet. Fashion consumers all over the world have learned that a "Made in Italy" label is an assurance that the garment is the best it can possibly be. There is a certain trust people place in Italian fashion, a confidence that underscores Italy's leadership position.

Italian style is more than just a state of mind but indeed a force to be reckoned in the scope of world fashion…and one that won't soon be quenched on any fashion front.

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