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Italian Master Thesis


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Italian Master Thesis

  1. 1. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 1 Declaration: I, Jacob Nassif, hereby declare that this dissertation is my own original work. Where other sources have been stated and paraphrased, every effort has been made to clearly acknowledge their appropriate scholarship in the footnotes and bibliography provided. Jacob Nassif University of Sydney SID: 311134564 25/10/2013
  2. 2. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 2 Abstract: The modern Italian fashion industry only came into fruition after World War II. Prior to Italy’s invasion of the American industry and consumer market, there was no real distinguished area in fashion for Italy to claim as its own, although a demand for Italian clothing did exist. For years, the country produced high quality wear that were considered either imitations or ‘knock-offs’ of French couture dresses and English suits. Furthermore, Italy did take pride in its tradition of artisan and craftsmanship expertise, as noted through the quality of production in their textile industry and accessories. But there was no unifying national quality or characteristic with Italy’s fashion at the time, that could be identified and presented to the rest of the world. It was not until the social and cultural changes that took place in Italy during the economic boom that a trend began to develop in the fashion industry that had not yet been targeted. To coincide with the industrial and cultural changes that had taken place, deeply influenced by America’s industrial, consumer and mass driven society, the Italian population began to alter the way they dressed. Italy noted and latched onto this change, creating high quality, fashionable and comfortable ready to wear clothing that was targeted specifically to the American market. What made Italian clothing successful were not only its quality of design, structure and fabric, but also the assistance of America both financially and through industry expertise. A perfect example of this is Gucci. It is a true empire that successfully implemented Italian quality craftsmanship and tradition, and turned it into a mass industry by successfully targeting the American market, through its consistent association with Hollywood glamour.
  3. 3. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 3 Acknowledgements: An endless amount of gratitude goes out to my supervisor Giorgia Alù. She has been the central figure in her role as my mentor throughout the process and development of this dissertation. I would like to thank Antonia Rubino for believing in me and giving me the courage to finally complete this Master in European Studies. It took a while, but I am extremely happy with the result. Thanks to Antonia, with all the courses I enrolled in, and the final dissertation I had chosen, I can now say with confidence that I have a deeper and more profound understanding of the Italian language and culture. I would also like to thank the lecturers from the department of Italian Studies, especially Giorgia Alù, Francesco Borghesi, Christina Mauceri, and Antonella Beconi. You all made me feel at home and, like true Italians, delivered my studies with expertise, style and passion. To my family, especially my mother Antoinette. They have had to put up with my endless demands and frustrations. It wasn’t easy studying and working at the same time, and it wasn’t any easier for her, and my sisters Katherine, Josephine and Christine, to have to deal with it. I love you all unconditionally, and thank you for accepting and encouraging my study of Italian from the very beginning. To all my friends and loved one, thank you for your support and encouragement over the years.
  4. 4. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 4 Table of Contents: Introduction 5 Chapter 1: America’s Influence on the Development of Italy’s Fashion Industry 7 1.1 America’s culture of consumption and Italy, 7 1.2 Fashion for everybody, 9 1.3 The American Marshall Plan and Italy’s modern industry, 13 1.4 Textiles industry and the success of Italian fashion, 16 1.5 Hollywood in Italy, 18 Chapter 2: The Establishment of the Modern Italian Fashion Industry 21 2.1 From past to present, 21 2.2 The fall of French haute couture and the establishment of the ready-to-wear market, 23 2.3 The ‘birth’ and gradual development of Italian fashion, 25 2.4 The success of quality ready to wear in Italy, 28 2.5 The establishment of Milan as Italy’s fashion capital, 30 2.6 The strength of Italian fashion in the eighties and nineties, 33 Chapter 3: Gucci: Italy’s Most Successful Global Fashion Label 36 3.1 The birth of Gucci, 36 3.2 The rise of Gucci, 38 3.3 Gucci’s fall and resurrection, 41 3.4 Gucci’s products and designs, 44 3.4.1 The bamboo, 44 3.4.2 The Flora scarf, 46 3.4.3 Moccasin, 48 3.4.4 GG monogrammed fabric, 49 Conclusion 53 Bibliography 55
  5. 5. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 5 INTRODUCTION Modern Italian fashion only came into fruition in the fifties and was well established in the sixties and seventies. Prior to this, Italy was internationally recognized for its production of high quality fabrics in the textile industry, and for its craftsmanship as well as traditional artisan skills with fashion accessories rather than the clothing itself. So how exactly did Italy create an international fashion powerhouse in such a short period of time? This dissertation attempts to research some of the crucial features that contributed to the construction and creation of contemporary Italian clothing, from the end of World War II up to the nineties. It will focus on the influence of America’s mass media and industry on Italy’s attitude to fashion and approach to modern production, along with the adoption of a number of traditional and cultural Italian elements that assisted in the characterization of a national fashion identity. The influence of America in Italy is revealed through the nation’s implementation of its mass consumerist society and industrial modeling after World War II. Chapter One details how Italy was provided with the knowledge and tools to create clothing that may have been considered Italian, but that was fundamentally aimed at the US market. In the fifties, sixties and seventies, America’s culture of consumption in Italy altered the social and cultural attitudes of the Italian people. Through the influence of mass media, particularly personalities in television and cinema, a change started taking place in the way people dressed and suddenly fashion became relevant to young women and teenagers. In Italy, like the rest of the world, as teenagers and women were given the opportunity to work and provide for themselves, comfort and practicality were increasingly preferred in developing trends. During this transition in fashion tendencies, Italy began to recognize the need for a market in high quality ready to wear. At the time Parisian couture was only able to provide superior design but did not have the appropriate machinery to cater for the American population and their garments were far too costly. On the other hand, America had the appropriate machinery for extensive manufacturing quantity, but lacked the quality. This is where the impact of the American industry in Italy indirectly played a crucial role to the development of the manufacturing element in Italian fashion. After WWII, America sent Italy a copious amount of monetary aid in association with the Marshall Plan. From this, the Italians began to
  6. 6. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 6 imitate and implement American industrial machinery and management expertise into their factories. Once the Italian industry perfected the American industry model, they took it a step further, and incorporated elements of Italian craftsmanship into their machinery. And from that point, Italy produced advanced machinery and was able to meet with numerical demands and create the ‘Italian element’ of high-quality design and detail aimed specifically for the American market. Chapter Two focuses on what makes Italian fashion, Italian. It starts by looking at the general history of fashion in Italy, established during the Renaissance period with trades of high quality textiles and fabrics, and the attention to detail and designs in traditional artisan craftsmanship. Italy continued to be known for its textiles and accessories. In the mid-twentieth century, post-war social changes caused the depreciation of French couture, which threatened Paris’ title as the fashion capital of the world, a position it held for so many years. This gave Italians lead to form a market for the booming ready to wear industry. The Italians were able to link these cultural elements of high quality fabric, attention to detail and design to Italian fashion. This was implemented initially through the boutique line, where designers, notably Emilio Pucci, introduced chic sportswear designs to the American market. The final Chapter of this dissertation is devoted to a case study on Gucci, the ultimate figure company to validate the development and current universal status of Italian fashion. It reveals how the initially family-owned corporation was able to successfully mold the cultural elements adopted through tradition and textiles, with industry strategies specifically aimed at the American market, to cultivate a dynasty that is now considered a global household name.
  7. 7. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 7 CHAPTER ONE America’s Influence on the Development of Italy’s Fashion Industry America has had a profound impact on the construction of the modern Italian fashion industry, particularly post World War II. Cultural, industrial and social aspects instilled by the Americans affected and later assisted in Italy’s development. This Chapter looks at the adoption and adaptation of mass culture and media, and in particular, at the Marshall Plan and the Italian textiles industry, as well as their significant impact on the revolutionary development of the modern fashion industry in Italy. 1.1 America’s culture of consumption and Italy There were a number of social changes that took place in Italy, particularly after WWII, that were impacted by the growing influence of American society and culture. 1 The implementation of the American way of life assisted in allowing the Italians to develop a thorough understanding of what their country had to offer. This knowledge also gave Italy the opportunity to uncover a number of cultural aspects that the Americans lacked, such as high quality ready to wear garments. The Italians had the ability to use the information and practical experience gathered to create a market that would contain exactly what America both required and desired. The Italian market of fashion is an example of this process, and will be dealt with in more depth later. But first, it is important to explore how mass media, unquestionably the most influential element of American consumerist culture in Italy, led the Italians to an American style of living. Mussolini’s fascist regime drastically altered the nation’s level of trust towards its government. After WWII, and particularly between 1958 and 1963, Italy went through a drastic economic growth and a social revolution that transformed a peasant country into one of the major industrial nations of the West.2 The economic boom in Italy formed a new source of social and cultural security that the Italian government could not provide. Italians turned towards consumerism as a tangible form of individual freedom from authority. Consumerism was a concept ‘firmly associated in the public mind with the 1 This part focuses on the media and industrial component of the American influence in Italy, in relation to fashion. For a broader understanding of America’s impact on Italy after 1945, see Francesco G. Gullace, American Influence on Postwar Italy (Ann Arbor: Syracuse University, 1964) 2 Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy. Society and Politics, 1943-1988 (New York: Palgrave, 2003), p. 212. For one source on Fascism see John Whittam, Fascist Italy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).
  8. 8. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 8 United States of America.’3 Adopting a consumerist lifestyle gave Italians, of all classes, the individualistic power to use the money they had for their own personal interests. They began to implement a number of social and cultural elements that correlated with American consumerism, such as going to the cinema and even watching television at home.4 In the late sixties television (the first experimental transmissions were broadcast in 1953) became the leading form of media and cultural consumption to aid in the standardization of the Italian culture. 5 It was the principal factor to push towards a common Italian language, that supported the erosion of cultural differences between localities (not just regional but also between cities) and classes, and elevated the idea of consumption and acquisitiveness.6 Consequently, the Italians understood how to live as American consumerists and consciously moved towards an increasingly modernized lifestyle. Mass media was the most effective tool to spread and nationalize consumerism throughout Italy. During this process, the nation gradually adopted American ideas and practices, and altered them along the way, adapting them to blend in with their own culture and traditions. Within this adoption and adaptation, changes in sexual attitude were built, demonstrated primarily through the development in freedom with the way people dressed.7 Changes in fashion were triggered by the imitation of personalities in cinema and television.8 Many Italians began to wear t-shirts, jeans and sneakers, as they continued to adopt urbanized trends, not only through living in the industrial cities in the North, but also by being exposed to how the American people dressed on screen. The increase of industrial employment opportunities also assisted in the conscious decision of many Italians to abandon their traditional and agricultural appearance in order to re-establish 3 Nicola White, Reconstructing Italian Fashion, America and the Development of the Italian Fashion Industry (Oxford: Berg, 2000), p. 129. 4 There was a drastic transformation in the identity of Italian culture and society after World War II. At end of the Fascist regime, the implementation of America’s industry and mass economy gave Italy something else to focus on. With the economic boom, Italy was given the opportunity to rebuild itself after dealing with tragic defeat caused by war. See Patrick McCarthy, Italy Since 1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). 5 David Forgacs, ‘Cultural Consumptions, 1940s to 1990s’, in Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, ed. by David Forgacs and Robert Lumley (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), p. 281-282. 6 Matthew Hibberd, The Media in Italy: Press, Cinema and Broadcasting from Unification to Digital (Maidenhead: McGraw Hill/Open University Press,2008). 7 David Forgacs, ‘Cultural Consumptions, 1940s to 1990s’, in Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, ed. by David Forgacs and Robert Lumley (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), pp. 277-279. 8 Stuart Ewen, ‘Marketing dreams, the political elements of style: television’, in Consumption, Identity, & Style: Marketing, Meanings, and the Packaging of Pleasure, ed. by Alan Tomlinson (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 41-56.
  9. 9. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 9 themselves in industrial and urbanized cities in the North of Italy.9 The Italians were fascinated by the Americans and found they desired to be a part of their world. Physical and contextual changes generated by industrialism and mass media were crucial to this transformation. The changes in sociological ideology in Italy caused the development of newly formed independent social groups, with women and young adolescents in particular, who would later influence and impact on the development and diversification of marketing in fashion. 1.2 Fashion for everybody In the fifties Italy was affected by the cultural distinction among age groups and gender as they each began to develop their own tastes, styles, and spending. This concept of distinction, a development behind American cultural consumption, was formed through the marking of one’s social territory, where people distinguished themselves from the other not only by age and gender, but also through character traits.10 The new market for young American women and teenagers were both commercially formed. They were previously unknown areas that sprung through consumerism that later impacted on Europe, where mature women were the only group to dominate fashion. At the end of the fifties, Italy, in particular, was catching up with the trend that shifted the fashion target market. Fashion was becoming increasingly aimed at younger women and teenagers thanks to the shift in working privileges, the impact of youth revolution as noted in cinema personalities, and other American-inspired social changes. As consumerism contaminated Italy, the middle-class was experiencing role changes and a rapid increase of independence.11 Many of these people had no previous financial privileges, but slowly they found their individuality through the money they earned.12 Fashion transformed into an affordable and common form of leisure for all average Italian middle-class citizens.13 9 For instance, Nanni Balestrini’s novel, Vogliamo Tutto (1971), explores the migration of a Southern Italian to the North searching for work, and in the process, being influenced by the American way of dress and style of living. 10 Forgacs, p. 274. 11 The middle-class refers to the Italians who were professionally employed, and acquired newly developed skills in industry-recognized labour work. 12 Ginsborg, pp. 39-71. 13 Diana Crane, ‘Fashion Worlds and Global Markets: From “Class” to “Consumer” Fasion’, Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 132-170.
  10. 10. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 10 With equality in employment, women were assuming male functionalities, gender roles within society became less specific, and therefore fashion also became less sexually specific. Men and women began to wear clothes that were common to either sex.14 Women in Italy began to wear pants, jeans and shirts, items of clothes that were once only linked with the man.15 The privilege of women’s style in fashion did not only come through cross gender dressing, but also through the sexual liberation of the woman, specifically during the youth revolution phenomenon. The changes in the social and moral values of the youth revolution of the sixties throughout America and Europe was an important factor that influenced the changing trend of Italian fashion, verified through the way on-screen personalities dressed. Female and male actors in cinema were young, and they captured the heart of a much wider, and less sophisticated audience. Film stars such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were able to demonstrate the archetype of the young rebel, as they were representations of the common middle-class in America. With such characters, the term ‘sexy’ was not only introduced, but became the highest form of praise.16 Through their attire male and female protagonists were perceived to be more relaxed, liberated and possessed the freedom to do whatever they pleased. The female heroin in cinema was often depicted in a seamless mini dress, loose shirt, jeans, noodle-strap dresses or tops, representing a liberated woman who is now able to take control of her own sexuality.17 14 Colin McDowell, Fashion Today (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2000), p. 6-7. 15 Fred Davis, Fashion,Culture, and Identity (London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992) 16 Colin McDowell, ‘Youth Revolution’, in Fashion Today (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2000), pp. 44-74. 17 Timothy Shary, ‘Youth Culture Shock’, in Youth Culture in Global Cinema, (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2007), pp. 1-6.
  11. 11. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 11 Fig. 1.2.1 The iconic and ‘sexy’ white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in the film The Seven Year Itch (1954) directed by Billy Wilder.18 Powerful French fashion designers at the time picked up on these changes like Yves Saint Laurent did when working for Dior. Laurent was considered revolutionary and rebellious for his approach to French design. It is important to mention the Parisian trend during this period, because they continued to reign as the leading and most influential fashion capital in the world. Chanel began to create unstructured jackets and straight skirts, and Balenciaga developed the ‘baby doll’ dress, which required an unrestricted youthful figure found only in young women. Garments such as the miniskirt reflected that fashion was becoming strictly targeted to the young females. Miniskirts and pants worn by women were the two permanent changes that emerged out of the twentieth century.19 18 Huffington Post, Marilyn Monroe’s Famous ‘Seven Year Itch’ Scene was Shot on Sept. 15, 1954 (2013) < 15_n_3930981.html> [accessed 2 October 2014]. 19 McDowell, pp. 44-74.
  12. 12. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 12 Fig. 1.2.2 Balenciaga silk gazar baby doll dress from 195820 Prior to this revolutionary shift in fashion, ‘dressing up’ was only linked to formal occasions and extravagant events, aimed only with the social elite.21 But after WWII and particularly in the fifties, fashion was increasingly affiliated with free time occasions generated for the middle-class, as society became increasingly democratic and capitalistic. The elder and the upper class consequently no longer had an influence attitude towards the way people dressed. Italians, like Americans, abandoned the idea of indulging fashion, rather opting for ‘round-the-clock’ fashion, where garments were not made for a specific occasion, but several, so that the same attire could be worn both day and night. It was a more practical way to dress, and as people’s lives continued to increase in pace, to dress formally became decreasingly relevant. Italy began to catch on to the ready-to-wear garments produced and manufactured in America.22 These season- friendly items, worn any particular time of the year were a result of the social changes. 20 Nick Verreos, Divine Dior Perfection and CHA-CHA Balenciaga Girl…, (2012) <> [accessed 5 October 2014]. 21 Within the context of this dissertation, the social elite and upper class refer to the class system of pre- democratic society, and are identified as a selected few of a country’s population, with a certain superiority in monetary value through ancestry and family ties. 22 Crane, p. 132-170.
  13. 13. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 13 The massive psychological and sociological development of the fifties may have been caused by the youth revolution and its power to communicate a modern ideology of fashion as sexy, glamorous, sophisticated and less formal, but capitalism and democracy were the driving force that allowed for these modifications to occur. Beside women, the youth were the second major consumer-driven group to emerge and formed its own identity, and this occurred during the youth revolution of the fifties and sixties. And with all these social and cultural developments during the sixties in Italy, the young desired to disassociate themselves from their elders. There was a youth rebelliousness of teppismo (hooligans) that spread in the sixties through to early seventies originating from the youth of the rural class and working background, and anti-conformist student movements. This particular social group sprung from the lack of Italian traditional ties and the desire to form a separate youth identity that was created through the culture of consumption.23 As a result, the youth desired to dress differently to distinguish themselves from the adults as a way of demanding respect. By the eighties, the concept of teenagers was distinguishable in Italy. With teenagers came sub- group identities, such as the paninari, a young social group aged between 13 and 18 who socialized in fast food restaurants and bars, wore fashionable jeans, Timberland shoes, Ray-ban sunglasses, drove around town in a Vespa, and adopted a particular slang.24 It is clear that fashion for the youth was a tangible example of distinction and differentiation, a consequence of capitalism. The way people dressed was the volatile and reactive visible force that helped form modern Italian society. Fashion worked with modern Italian society as its creative and artistic development. America not only gave Italy the culture and knowledge, but it also helped arrange the modern Italian fashion industry. 1.3 The American Marshall Plan and Italy’s modern industry America’s influential spread and impact on Italian society and culture was unrivalled by any other nation in Europe. The strong interest in America’s lifestyle gave Italy a thorough knowledge and understanding of the US market, particularly in fashion. During this awareness process, Italy also had an industrial advantage. It all started with the implementation of the Marshall Plan on April 3 of 1948, an American aid program 23 Alberto Martinelli and Antonio Chiesi, Sonia Stefanizzi, ‘Age Groups’, Recent Social Trends in Italy 1960- 1995 (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999), pp. 81-101. 24 Forgacs, p. 274-275.
  14. 14. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 14 that helped assist in the development of the modern Italian textile and later a ‘high quality made ready-to-wear’ for which the Italians were and continue to be famously recognized. 25 The textile and clothing industry in Italy was the least affected by the damage caused by WWII. Italian partisans helped to preserve several of the factories in the North from severe harm.26 The Italian government took advantage of post-war need of consumer goods in the international market, and from this the textile industry profited, particularly with fabrics such as wool, cotton and artificial silk.27 At the same time, America was the only country to emerge richer after the war, and they had the intention to strengthen Italy both economically and politically, so democracy could withstand the forces that threatened to make Italy a totalitarian country. The US decided to implement the Marshall Plan to reconstruct Italy, creating a favourable international capitalist trading structure that was centered on exports. The prime motivator of all Italian government policies was exporting to the US. The intention of the task was to restore production and employment.28 In 1947 alone, the US provided Italy with $500 million to assist in trade and payment deficit. With the money from the Marshall Plan, the larger companies in Italy were able to transform their plants with American machinery.29 The Marshall Plan had a powerful, political and psychological influence on Italy that encouraged its economic reorganization, and the opening of the Italian economy to foreign trade. From the plan Italy purchased up-to-date technology and was thus able to supply relevant goods to America, and continue to keep the manufacturing costs low. This was due to powerless trade unions, sound wages for Italian standards, and the increase in living standards (which would taper any opposition that would threaten to increase people’s pay). Up-to-date technology and low manufacturing costs in fashion were the leading factors as why the US favoured Italy in fashion exporting over France.30 25 The Marshall Plan will only be looked at in relation to Italy, in correlation with the textile and fashion industry. The program affected many more countries struggling with the consequences of war, including France, Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. For a better understanding of the Marshall Plan and its full purpose see Michael Hogan, The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947-1952 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). 26 Christina Nardi Spiller, The Dynamics of the Price Structure and the Business Cycle: The Italian Evidence from 1945 to 2000 (Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag Heidelberg, 2003), pp. 2-3. 27 White, p. 10. 28 Chiarella Esposito, America’s Feeble Weapon: Funding the Marshall Plan in France and Italy, 1948-1950 (New York: Greenwood, 1994). 29 White, pp. 12-13. 30 Esposito.
  15. 15. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 15 Thanks to the Marshall Plan, Italians were taught directly by the Americans how best they could create and work advanced machinery to meet foreign demands. The Italian industry was educated on all the relevant areas to a successful modern industry: management, industrial relations and planning, technology, industrial organization, management principles, and marketing and machinery specifically from American philosophy. Italy then diverged that knowledge to implement it into small and specialized plants, which the Italians preferred over large corporations. They later used the experience gained to take it to a whole new level, by combining American machinery with high quality production to create advanced machinery. This put the Italians on top of the game in the development of quality and innovative fabrics and clothes. In the late sixties Italy was recognized as one of the major industrial nations in the world. Gradually, as consumption and industrial production rose in Italy, the loan borrowed by the Marshall Plan was completely repaid by July 1962. 31 After the economic boom in Italy between 1958 and 1963, US investment, technology and markets implemented by the Marshall Plan lost their central power in Italy, as the nation that once depended on America was strong and intelligent enough to do it on its own.32 Italy had now formed its own industry that could not be rivaled by any other nation in the world, including the US. With this in mind, Italian fashion can be viewed as a product, representing a complex mixture of foreign inputs, domestic responses, and original developments. 33 The foreign input came through initial financial support and implementation of the Marshall Plan after WWII. From then, America was closely involved in the organization of the industrial component of Italy, not only as a cultural model, but also as a supplier of progressive manufacturing methods, and most importantly as a key Italian financial market. America’s assistance was clearly crucial to the expansion of the economic miracle, which resulted in Italy’s international commerce golden age between 1950 and 1970. As the textiles industry (which paved the way for the fashion industry) rose in demand in advanced countries, industrial machinery and plants, and production levels increased in Italy. Italy responded (domestic response) to this with low cost and highly 31 White, p. 17-18. 32 Wark McKenzie, ‘Fashion the Future: Fashion, Clothing, and the Manufacturing of Post-Fordist Culture’, Cultural Studies,5:1 (1991), pp. 61-76. 33 Nancy. L Green, ‘Fashion and Flexibility; The Garment Industry between Haute Couture and Jeans’, in Ready- To-Wear, Ready-To-Work: A Century of Industry and Immigrants in Paris and New York , ed. by Nancy L. Green (London: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 15-43.
  16. 16. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 16 productive labour, the lack of effective trade unions, and entrepreneurial skills of small Italian firms. The success is owed to original development, demonstrated through their willingness to adopt new techniques and introduce new machinery that would put them on top of the game. Fig. 1.3.1 The GNP (Growth National Product) for Italy between 1970 and 1996. It demonstrates the drastic and successful growth of an economy that was initially agriculturally based, to becoming the world’s fifth largest industrial economy.34 1.4 Textiles industry and the success of Italian fashion The US aid program of the Marshall Plan had a secondary effect on the Italian Fashion Industry. The US played a key role in the rapid emergence of the Italian textile industry and this was crucial to the success of the Italian Fashion Industry.35 The Italian textile industry always had a strong international export sector within the Italian economy centuries before the introduction of Italian ready-to-wear. Ever since the Middle Ages it has set a standard of quality design and production, particularly with fabrics such as 34 History Central, Economy Italy <> [accessed 4 October 2014]. It is difficult to find numerical and graphical data on the influence and effect of the Marshall Plan in Italy. Most of the information is based on research and theory, as even noted by Nicola White, whose book, Reconstructing Italian Fashion, America and the Development of the Italian Fashion Industry examines America’s influence on the development of fashion in Italy. 35 Ornella Morelli, ‘The International Success and Domestic Debut of Postwar Italian Fashion’, in Italian Fashion: The Origins of High Fashion and Knitwear, ed. by Gloria Bianchino, Grazietta Butazzi, Alessandra Mottola Molfino, and Arturo Carlo Quintavalle (Milan: Electa, 1985), pp. 59-65.
  17. 17. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 17 wool and silk.36 During WWI and WWII the textile industry, including fabric such as silk, grew in the international market, specifically in the US. Immediate post-war policy to export from Italy made the textile industry easily accessible to foreign trade, which was the first step towards the future development and success of fashion-related offshore trade and industry. The Italian textile industry was one of the most fortunate beneficiaries, with a considerable degree of leverage over economic policy of the Marshall Aid Program. Its revival was a key plan by the US for Italy, with the country’s intention to export materials such as cotton and wool.37 Italy started to neglect American machinery when Italian-made textile machine production began in the fifties with the most advanced technology created for their specialized plants. Italian textile machinery became known for its sophistication and innovation. Italian silk became one of the largest manufacturing materials for the US in the fifties and early sixties. There was a clear growing interest in Italian styles and fabrics, and between 1945 and 1965, Italian textile manufacturers firmly established their products in the international market, particularly the US.38 Throughout this process, there was a growing relationship between the Italian fashion and textile industry in Italy. During WWII material for soldier’s uniforms was readily available for dressmakers, which helped establish a firm connection between the two industries. Textile manufacturers were also the first to assist in the finance and promotion of Italian fashion after the war. It was through Italian fashion houses that textile manufacturers were able to promote their materials, and in return, textile houses assisted in the promotion of Italian high fashion through advertising, as couture houses did not have the funds to support themselves at the time.39 Fashion designers knew manufacturers and would acknowledge the use of their fabrics during fashion show presentations in Florence. There were even fashion-textile shows in the fifties, and fashion-textiles were also presented in editorials and advertisements in magazines such as Linea Italiana and Bellezza. Textile manufacturers names were mentioned alongside high fashion designers and modeling images.40 Specific textile fabrics and patterns were 36 Valerie Steele, ‘From the Roman Empire to the Venetian Republic’, Fashion, Italian Style (New York: Yale University Press,2003), pp. 3-6. 37 Stuart J. Woolf, The Rebirth of Italy 1943-50 (London: Longman, 1972), pp. 158-159. 38 White, pp. 20-21. 39 Emily Garrison, The Italian Reconstruction and Post-War Fashions, (2012), 1-15 < > [accessed 13 June 2014]. 40 Elisa Massai, ‘Italian Dressmakers and Wool Firms in Joint Showing’, Woman’s Wear Daily, September 1950.
  18. 18. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 18 not only mentioned but were also favoured for up and coming seasons. Italian textile manufacturers even made exclusive deals with ready-to-wear labels, like Ravarsi manufacturer for Pucci’s silk. There were also long term payments and deals made between textile manufacturers and ready-to-wear labels like Achille Maramotti who worked for the powerhouse MaxMara.41 1.5 Hollywood in Italy As mentioned earlier, the increasing relevance of Americanisation in Italy, which impacted the Italian fashion industry, also came about through other aspects of the cinematic field. Through the post-war programs of both economic and military aid, there was a discovery of Italy by the Americans that increased the depth of their relationship.42 Tourism by the wealthy Americans grew, as they were lured in by Italy’s inexpensive cost of living, cultural heritage and Mediterranean sun. Tourism also increased thanks to the production of American films in Italy’s photogenic locations, particularly Rome (for instance the 1953 film, Roman Holiday). The on and off-screen lives of the famous American stars in Italy added to the Americanised perception of the country as a quaint and fascinating paradise. Italy was able to adopt this enchanting and sentimental image that was portrayed and used as a marketing strategy in the field of fashion. Hollywood films had a significant influence in Italy. US stars were recognized for their identity, and fashion and dress was an aspect of this. Actors and actresses played an active role in cultural consumption. In general, when people perceive a star, they view him/her as a product, through the consumption of the image and lifestyle s/he represents.43 Just like the cultural consumption of ‘teenagers’ was created by North America, so was that of Hollywood glamour. They were unreachable and untouchable, and the way they dressed played a role in their connective tissue within society. Glamour is the act of enchantment, and the Italians (like the rest of the world) were influenced by the charm of what they saw in the Hollywood stars. When these actors went to Italy to make films they brought along with them that untouchable Hollywood glamour.44 Italian fashion output was then directed to the American market, and its 41 White, p. 25-30. 42 White, p. 132. 43 Forgacs, p. 273-274. 44 Rachel Moseley, ‘Introduction’, in Fashioning Film Stars; Dress, Culture, Identity, ed. by Rachel Moseley (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) pp. 1-8.
  19. 19. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 19 design was molded to their taste. From this, the Italian fashion industry was able to associate itself with the American glamorous style, as stars were covered in Italian labels from head to toe both on and off screen. Hollywood film stars filming and living in Italy were international icons of style and beauty, and they formed an important market for Italian fashion between 1951 and 1965.45 There was a specific ‘American Look’ Italian designers accommodated for that was displayed through Hollywood films, and this look turned out to be a personal guide to viewers in America and all across Europe. The ‘American look’ consisted of sportswear that was associated with practicality, comfort and simplicity, as well as novelty.46 Hollywood films also made contradictions between the social ideologies of the way people dressed as previously mentioned.47 Fig. 1.5.1 An official movie poster of the 1953 film Roman Holiday featuring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.48 The impact America had on Italy during the last century, particularly after WWII, gave the Italians the knowledge and ability to successfully cater to a global society. The next 45 White, pp. 135-136. 46 White, p. 150. 47 Rachel Moseley,Fashioning Film Stars; Dress, Culture,Identity (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 68. 48 Journeys in Classic Films, Roman Holiday (1953) < holiday-1953/> [accessed 1 October 2014].
  20. 20. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 20 chapter discusses how Italy took this mass cultural phenomenon from the US, and incorporated it with a number of cultural-specific elements that together formed the identity and eventually the success of the modern Italian fashion industry.
  21. 21. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 21 CHAPTER TWO The Establishment of the Modern Italian Fashion Industry The previous chapter looked at the significant impact of America’s mass culture and industry on Italian culture and its economy, as well as how Italy, in turn, altered its approach and definition of fashion. It is now clear after World War II, that the Italians had the knowledge and the equipment readily available to break into the global fashion industry; all they needed was to mix it with a couple of doses of, already well recognized, cultural Italian elements to claim it as their own. Chapter Two looks at Italian textiles, craftsmanship, quality and artisan tradition, as well as how they became crucial to the development of an Italian fashion identity that was to become distinctively Italian. It also looks at the fall of French haute couture and the overall establishment of the ‘Made in Italy’ market, through the recurring quality of fabric, structure and design in ready to wear and chic sportswear, by designers who helped bring a unifying national concept to their style. 2.1 From past to present Italy has always been perceived as a country of elegance, seduction and pleasure, and for centuries, the Italian fashion system has had a strong tradition of tailoring, craftsmanship and textile production.49 It has been about living la bella figura, Italian for ‘making a good impression’, and this came about well before the establishment of Italian fashion, most notably during the Renaissance period.50 Florence and Venice played a vital role in the emergence of modern fashion during the Renaissance, as they were both cities with a strong social and economic structure. 51 Back then textiles were one of the chief commodities traded by Italian merchants. Most Italian trade in silk was with China, 49 Valerie Steele, Fashion, Italian Style (New York: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 1. 50 La Bella Figura is an Italian cultural philosophy that refers to taking pride in ones own appearance. Physically, it is about being selective in what one wears, focusing on the quality and not the quantity of how to dress. It is about appreciation of possessions and experience, with the idea in mind that less is more. For a clearer understanding of the importance of the quality of life and culture for Italians see Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Living La Dolce Vita: Bringing the Passion, Laughter and Serenity of Italy into Your Daily Life (Naperville, III: Sourcebooks, 2003). 51 Dressing extravagantly was important for the elite families in Renaissance Florence. There was an overflowing industry of artisans and merchants catering for the style-conscious Florentines. Frick explores the social and political impact of clothing in Florence at the time. See Carole Collier Frick, Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, and Fine Clothing (London: John Hopkins University Press, 2005).
  22. 22. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 22 Byzantium and Persia. 52 During the Renaissance, there were also a number of technical Italian weavers and other artisans that boosted the Italian textile industry. Important contemporary Italian fashion would have commenced with the Medicis from merchants that were dealing with wool, and the Boselli family, for merchants dealing with silk.53 Leather, cotton, wool and linen were common trades of fashion between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. Also craft artisan traditions from all over Italy played a fundamental role in the rise of Italian fashion. The Neapolitans have been tailoring clothes since the fourteenth century, an essential aspect that helped define and distinguish fashion from Italy.54 As noted above, with certain textile industries being set in particular cities in Italy, like Venice for silk, it is clearly important to look at placement in Italy, as different areas of the textile industry are also manufactured in various locations all over Italy. The numerous geographical placements of the textile industry are responsible for the specific allocation of the manufacturing of Italian fashion today. As a result of specific textile manufacturing locations, fashion areas developed into industrial districts or clusters to form an integrated network.55 For instance Como became known for its silk (in the Middle Ages, silk was also a common manufacturing material in Sicily) and by the 1800s the fabric was popular in the Center-North of Italy. Como became Italy’s largest silk producer due to the generous water supply from Lake Como and the Alpine streams, as well as mulberry farming in the Po River.56 Italy’s long unifying process (which was complete by 1870 with the annexation of Rome to the Italian Kingdom) generated an unclear national identity.57 And whilst England and France had a strong national identity that gave them the opportunity to advance and distinguish themselves for their fashion on an international level.58 Nevertheless, Italy continued to make beautiful clothes that were noted for their quality, even though they were profoundly influenced by French fashion for women, and English tailoring for 52 Luxury textiles were crucial to the Italian economy during the Renaissance period, and the Venetian silk industry was one of its top markets at the time. See Luca Molà, The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000) 53 Frick. 54 Steele. 55 Michael Dunford, ‘Industrial Districts, Magic Circles, and the Restructuring of the Italian Textiles and Clothing Chain’, Economic Geography, 1 (2006), pp. 27-59. 56 Today Como continues to provide silk to fashion houses all over Italy, particularly Milan, even though it now imports silkworms from China. See Discovery Travel Network Ltd, ‘Lake Como Silk’, Lake Como, Your Trip, Your Way <> (accessed 8 May 2014). 57 See Henrik Mouritsen, Italian Unification: a Study in Ancient and Modern Historiography (London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 1998). 58 Steele, p. 3-4.
  23. 23. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 23 men.59 The lack of a national fashion identity in Italy kept the country on the sideline until the mid-twentieth century, when drastic social and cultural changes began to take place in western civilization that eventually altered the way people dressed. These changes were to give Italy the opportunity to form an internationally recognisable aesthetic to fashion, put together by these cultural elements that were established in the past. Fig. 2.1.1 An Italian-made Victorian-inspired silk dress by an unknown designer from the late nineteenth century.60 2.2 The fall of French haute couture and the establishment of the ready to wear market Prior to the early fifties, France reigned as the leading country of fashion with its haute couture, even though Italy was still acknowledged for its textiles and elegant craftsmanship. Italian fashion accessories were admired throughout the world even in the early twentieth century, but for many years, Italian fashion was recognized mainly for its ability to recreate French couture, as an adequate national fashion identity had not yet been established.61 It was not until after WWII, with the emergence of a young American women’s market, as revealed in the previous chapter, along with the youth 59 Ibid, p. 7. 60 Victoria and Albert Museum, History of Fashion 1840-1900 (2014) <> [accessed 2 October 2014]. 61 Lucca Lo Sicco, ‘Italian Haute Couture: First Attempts of Emancipation from France (1906-1959)’, Fashion Forward, ed. by Alissa de Witt-Paul and Mira Crouch (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2011) pp. 303-314.
  24. 24. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 24 trend that the influence of French couture weakened in Italy. In fact, the teenager and young woman phenomena was still unknown in many areas throughout Europe, where mature women continued to dominate fashion even shortly after post-war cultural and social changes.62 Until the late forties French fashion continued to be backed up by middle-class American women, who were the buying power and the center of the consumer boom, as the US was not affected by the results of war. American wholesalers would continue to purchase French clothes, or cheaper copies of them from American manufacturers.63 The French also utilized American women in their advertisements of high-class ‘breeding’ society, knowing that middle-class American women aspired to be like them. French couture dominated American magazines, as privileged wives from America continued to wear its clothing. In the fifties the American economy did not experience any major highs but rather slow economic growth causing inflation and an increase in consumer prices, so French couture began to work increasingly with American manufacturers either copying or adapting pieces to suit the American market. This was a cheaper alternative to buying directly from French couture labels.64 During this process though, Paris fashion lost a considerable amount of wealth. As French fashion was gradually being reproduced in America, the focus of fashion was not so much on women with wealth, but rather on women who had taste. Fashion commenced to touch a broader democratic base as the opulence of French garments were being recreated for ordinary American women and smart, well-made clothes were being manufactured for women of all social levels.65 As America was becoming a nation of fashion conscious consumers, Italian craftsman of aristocratic descent were eager to restore the country’s wealth after the damage of war, and so they recognized the potential quality ready to wear had in the market. A fine example of an Italian aristocrat designer would be Emilio Pucci, who built a reputation for himself in America and whose creative and original designs initiated the concept of ‘Made in Italy’ to the world.66 Italy was previously known in the industry as fashion 62 Fred Davis, Fashion, Culture, and Identity (London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992). 63 Diana Crane, ‘Fashion Worlds and Global Markets: From “Class” to “Consumer” Fashion’, in Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing, ed. by Diana Crane (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 147. 64 Colin McDowell, Fashion Today (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2000), pp. 12-22. 65 Diana Crane, ‘Fashion and Clothing Choices in Two Centuries’, in Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing, ed. by Diana Crane (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 235-248. 66 The concept of Made in Italy is defined as fashion that carries high quality in its structure and material. See Luigi Settembrini, Made in Italy, 1951-2001 (Milan: Skira, 2001).
  25. 25. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 25 designers who plagiarized Paris couture labels, and the country strived to have a prestige of its own, and so it began to focus on areas that were already of interest to America, like the establishment of knitwear to fashion, and producing ready to wear clothes that were made from the highest creative and manufacturing standards, combining both elegance and informality.67 Initially, Paris gave America the idea to inherent into the concept of ready to wear design, and America knew how to mass-produce them. What the Italians had though, was the manufacturing skills that the French lacked, and a higher level of craftsmanship than what was instituted in America. From these qualities offered by Italian designers, the ‘Made in Italy’ concept was formed and ready to be firmly established. It is safe to say that Italy would have grasped on to the massive market that had not yet been discovered, which led to the creation of an Italian fashion style. Fig. 2.2.1 Emilio Pucci working with a model in 1953.68 2.3 The ‘birth’ and gradual development of Italian fashion During the years of America’s expansion of mass production and ‘popular culture’, there was also a parallel network of ‘high culture’ that consisted of small-scale, craft-based industries.69 These were based on Italian dependence on historic traditions, such as craftsmanship in textiles, which were later to become crucial and imperative to the 67 McDowell, pp. 30-35. 68 Life in Italy, Pucci Emilio: Couture with a Twist (2014) < pucci.asp> [accessed 2 October 2014]. 69 Popular culture refers to the quantitative development of cultural activities and commercial products suitable for the mass population. On the contrary, high culture is a specific set of cultural elements, activities and products that are held in the highest esteem by a specific culture. See Herbet J. Gans, Popular Culture and High Culture, An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste (New York, Basic Books, 1999).
  26. 26. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 26 image of Italian products, and to the Italian economy.70 Italian textiles and accessories continued to maintain their high quality standard during the transition from purely artisanal production to the modern industrial system that was introduced by America. Since then, accessories, particularly shoes, jewelry and handbags, have long played a central role in the Italian fashion system. 71 Italy produced high quality leather accessories, developed through the long tradition of craftsmanship, and combined with technological sophistication. Famous brands were able to maintain the quality status that Italy was known for. For example, Ermenegildo Zegna focused on constructing the best menswear fabric since 1912, Guccio Gucci was renowned for his accessories since 1906, and Salvatore Ferragamo worked on quality shoes since he opened his Florentine workshop in 1927. 72 Attention between the Italian and American culture initiated through the presence of US armed forces from 1943, and from the production of American films like Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) in Italy, particularly in Rome.73 The ‘birth’ of Italian fashion has always been allied with the first official Italian fashion show organized by Giovan Battista Giorgini in his residence at the Villa Torrigiani in Florence on February 12, 1951. The following year’s show was what triggered the world to start acknowledging Italy for its fashion. It consisted of 25 fashion houses; nine from high fashion including the young Roberto Capucci and Jole Veneziani, and sixteen representing sportswear and boutique level wear, such as Emilio Pucci and Irene Galitzine.74 Even though Florence was investing in the fashion shows in the early fifties, Rome was the center of Italian couture or alta moda (high fashion). Rome was flourishing throughout its reign as ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’ as many American and Italian films were directed on its location. Famous film stars from both America and Italy wore clothes designed by Roman couturiers as film costumes and even off set.75 The most famous Italian couturier designers at the time were the Fontana sisters. They fashioned luxurious, dramatic dresses with lavish decoration, and were famous for their creation of 70 Nicola White, Reconstructing Italian Fashion, America and the Development of the Italian Fashion Industry (Oxford: Berg, 2000), p. 131. 71 Steele. 72 Steele, p. 10. 73 David Forgacs, ‘Cultural Consumptions, 1940s to 1990s’, in Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction, ed. by David Forgacs and Robert Lumley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 276. 74 Settembrini, 33-35. 75 Nicola White, ‘Italy: Fashion, Style and National Identity 1945-65’, in The Fashion Business: Theory, Practice, Image, ed. by NicolaWhite and Ian Griffiths (Oxford: Berg, 2000), pp. 191.
  27. 27. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 27 evening gowns, film costumes, and wedding dresses.76 The association of Italian fashion to Hollywood film stars was crucial in placing their designs on a global scale. An example of this is the famous design of the black silk-wool cassock dress that was constructed for famous American actress Ava Gardner in 1956. It was a part of the Fontana sisters’ cardinal collection and was inspired by ecclesiastical dress. Anita Ekberg later wore the dress in Fellini’s film, La Dolce Vita.77 It was famous the controversy it caused, demonstrating that Italian fashion was able to stand on its own through the evolution in its style, and its disassociation with other national fashion types. Even singer Margaret Truman wore a Fontana Sisters’ wedding dress in her 1956 marriage to New York Times reporter Clifton Daniel. 78 It is also imperative that Valentino Garavani gets a mention, as he was the most important and successful designer to emerge out of Rome since the opening of his couture house in 1960. He was and continues to be known for his couture tradition of luxury, quality, and extravagance.79 By the late fifties, Italy was able to captivate the American public through its aura, that is, its colourful, carefree and exotic lifestyle that was offered by Italian women and their culture. American soldiers were attracted to Italian women as they found them sexy and light-hearted, and Americans that travelled to Italy on holiday were drawn in by the easy Italian way of life, and the dolce vita years of glamour and sophistication, as mentioned in the previous chapter.80 It was America’s and the world’s perception of the Italian lifestyle that influenced the growing interest in the country’s ready to wear.81 Italian designer labels embraced the cultural attitudes and values that were being spread globally by American society, and used this as a method to draw in foreign interest, particularly from America. By the end of the fifties casual elegance was associated with Italian style. 76 Steele, p. 29. 77 Steele, p. 31. 78 Simona Segre Reinach, ‘Fontana Sisters’, Love to Know: Fashion History <http://fashion-> (accessed 11 August, 2014). 79 See Armando Chitolina, Suzy Menkes and Matt Tynauer, Una Grande Storia Italiana. Valentino Gravani (Los Angeles: Taschen, 2007). 80 McDowell, pp. 33-35. 81 For more of the influence of America on the perception of culture, see Neil Campbell, Jude Davies and George McKay, Issues in Americanisation and Culture (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004).
  28. 28. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 28 Fig. 2.3.1 Ava Gardner modeling the cassock dress designed by the Fontana Sisters in 1956.82 2.4. The success of quality ready to wear in Italy In the fifties high quality and traditional associations were firmly rooted in Italian fashion and were gradually implemented into casual sportswear. During this phase, the concept of casual elegance came into being, and Italians began to create elegant sportswear that was less formal, disassociated with class, and progressively international-friendly. There was an advantage detected with Italian sportswear as it was gradually becoming more suitable to the American outdoor lifestyle with its superior quality fabrics, in comparison to the sportswear manufactured in the US at the time.83 Italian designers such as Emilio Pucci contributed to the change in style through striking colour combinations, tight fits, and eccentric prints.84 It was the design of a ski outfit, that was featured in Harper’s Bazaar in 1948, that Italian sportswear was recognized for its quality and elegance. Pucci’s pairing of Capri pants with silk shirts in a bold scarf- print design established one of the classic styles of the twentieth century.85 Pucci is the perfect example of the pioneering of easy, comfortable, body conscious sportswear that 82 Blog Spot, Religion, Fashion & Culture (2012) < post.html> [accessed 5 October 2014]. 83 Steele, p. 23. 84Mariuccia Casadio and Elizabeth Currie, Emilio Pucci, 1st edn (New York: Assouline, 2003). 85 Steele, p. 25.
  29. 29. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 29 involved sophistication and cultural prestige. He experimented with synthetic materials, eliminated lining and paddings, as well as girdles and underwire brassieres as he represented Italian fashion in its cultural development of the liberation of the body.86 He collaborated with big American department stores in the fifties, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and made frequent visit to the country, vital to the gradual distinction of Italian fashion both in America and on an international level.87 Men’s fashion was also revolutionized in Italy with the implementation of the ‘Continental Look’ that was formed in the fifties.88 The development of slim silhouettes, the softening of structure, the introduction to raw silk, and the experimentation of colour led to the break away from traditional men’s suits made from London’s Savile Row.89 Suit brands such as Brioni and men’s shirt brands such as Lorenzini and Avon Celli were able to establish a clearer understanding of the concept of ‘Made in Italy’ with their guarantee of fine materials, and excellent workmanship as well as quality that were associated with the ‘Italian look’.90 A modern Italian style of menswear was coming into being that was to pave the way for international Italian designers such as Giorgio Armani. 86 Casadio and Currie. 87 Katell Le Bourhis, Stefania Ricci and Luigi Settembrini, Emilio Pucci (Milano: Skira, 1996). 88 The Continental Look refers to a specific look created by Roman label, Brioni. It consists of narrow lapels, a slightly pronounced shoulder, 2-buttons, and a shorter slim silhouette both in the jacket and trousers. See Nick Rossi, A Modernist: Brioni Roman Style And The Origins Of The Continental Look In The USA (1954),, 2010 < style-and-origins-of.html> (accessed 6 June 2014). 89 Joan Nunn, Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000 (Chicago: New Amsterdam Books, 2000). 90 Steele, p. 42.
  30. 30. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 30 Fig. 2.4.1 Emilio Pucci’s ‘ski outfit’ featured in America’s Harper’s Bazaar in 1948.91 2.5 The establishment of Milan as Italy’s fashion capital A division was built between Florence and Rome when it came to Italian High Fashion, which provided Milan with the opportunity to snap the spot as the fashion capital of Italy. Milan was the city that offered the growing popularity of boutique-wear, an alternative to the traditional and clear division between couture (high fashion) and mass fashion, which later paved the way to the Italian ready to wear industry.92 Labels that took part in this category and were founded in or near Milan include Elio Fiorucci and Missoni. They both produced inexpensive and colourful fashion made out of mixed materials and advanced machinery. Ready to wear was unworthy of fashion shows in both Rome and Florence, as a consequence many of these labels decided to take it to Milan. In the sixties and seventies Milan became a city where fashion was displayed in various locations.93 An essential stylist worth mentioning is Walter Albini. Albini was the first true stylist for a number of ready to wear labels in Milan and was able to take this alternative method of dressing internationally, and make it known in the sixties, a time where 91 Word Press, Style: Live It, Love It, Own It: Fabric (Jersey & Silk) + Graphic Prints= The Pucci Look + Aristocratic Elegance (2009) <> [accessed 5 October 2014]. 92 Grace Lees-Maffei, Made In Italy, 1st edn (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013). 93 Elisabetta Merlo and Francesca Polese, ‘Accessorizing, Italian Style: Creating a Market for Milan’s Fashion Merchandise’, in Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture and Consumers, ed. by Regina Lee Blaszczyk (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 415-447.
  31. 31. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 31 people were focusing on Roman couture.94 From then, Italian ready to wear rose and Milan was transformed into one of the world’s most important fashion capitals. Because the focus was not art and culture but rather its industrial elements, Milan was able to cater for the growing mass market. The garments that were coming out of Milan were made for everyday. The difference between Italian made ready to wear and the ready to wear available in America was the quality of the luxury fabrics that were implemented, which began to build the foundation for an upscale read-to-wear market that never really existed. As already mentioned, Italians have been one of the greatest and richest textile producers for centuries, and major consumers of precious materials such as cashmere and fine wool knitwear. It is through the accessibility of these textiles that the riches of Italian prêt-à-porter was created. There were a number of fashion designers that ran their own fashion houses, influencing the development of the Italian look. Such designers include Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace. Giorgio Armani specifically designed attire for normal life. Armani was exemplary for the subtlety and elegance in Italian fashion, where the focus was on the detail rather than excess. He was able to revolutionize fashion in the seventies by making men and women look the same. Armani is identified for his unstructured suits, easy elegance, and tailoring with freedom. 95 Italian made-to-measure wear implied quality and workmanship and Armani was able to transfer the luxury of menswear onto the racks. Luxury ready to wear offered a sense of eroticism. Men became desirable after they abandoned the stiff look in favour of a softer and more relaxed appearance with the implementation of fabrics such as cashmere and silk-and-wool blends.96 Armani was able to feminize and eroticize menswear with the brand’s association with casual, expensive, and sexy elegance. Richard Gere wore his suits in the film American Gigolo (1980). His greatest impact would be his application of men’s tailoring to women’s clothing. He gave professional women the same kind of subtle power in the uniform that was once only attained by men.97 On the other hand Gianni Versace adopted a Fellini-like sensuality, creating designs that were more like costumes, defining the world as a stage. Versace was born in Reggio 94 Steele, pp. 55-57. 95 Nicola White, Giorgio Armani (London: Carlton Books, 2000). 96 White, 2000. 97 John Potvin, ‘Armani/Womenswear: Hybrid Modernity’, in Giorgio Armani: Empire of the Senses, ed. by John Potvin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012) pp. 185-264.
  32. 32. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 32 Calabria in 1946. He brought the southern Italian influence to the north of Italy, where his designs and style focused on extremity. In the nineties Versace became the world’s most famous advocate of sexually expressive clothing for men and women. Through Versace elements of homosexuality and sadomasochism were introduced into high fashion, such as leather harnesses. The Italian fashion house used leather for eveningwear and even employed the figure of the prostitute as their heroic model, turning her into a media star.98 Versace was and continues to be known for the use of coloured silk and baroque exuberance in its design.99 It created designs that are noted in fashion history, such as his safety-pin dress worn by Elizabeth Hurley in 1994. Gianni Versace was the perfect example of the designer as a superstar. He, like other Italian designers, dressed film and pop stars, and was admired by the famous for making them glamorous.100 It was important that designers have larger-than-life personalities in order to survive, and Versace’s outspoken designs communicated his characteristics and individuality. Fig. 2.5.1 Richard Gere in Armani in the film America Gigolo (1980).101 98 Steele, p. 71. 99Gianni Versace was murdered in Miami in 1997, and since his sister has run the company, Donatella Versace, who continues to maintain the ideology and aesthetics of the brand established by her brother. Noteworthy dresses by Donatella Versace include the one worn by Jennifer Lopez at the Oscars in 2001. 100 McDowell, pp. 80-95. 101 Oscar Hunt Tailors, The Most Iconic Suits Of All Time <> [accessed 7 October 2014].
  33. 33. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 33 2.6 The strength of Italian fashion in the eighties and nineties ‘Fashion is irrevocably commercial.’ – Richard Martin. 102 As a result of the monetary success caused by massive economic booms in America, the eighties was the most decadent and dubious decade of the twentieth century. People gathered their own personal wealth and Italian designers gained glory and status by association. 103 Fashion in the eighties and nineties was aimed at the media, and supermodels made fashion newsworthy, sexier and more fun to be around. Versace and other Italian labels began to create couture for media purposes. Fashion shows were the focus of the nineties, and the designer was just as important as the clothes that were being put on display. Designers became the stars of fashion and had to behave peculiarly and outrageously in order to amuse and please the public. In the eighties and nineties Italian designers and fashion houses employed American models, because of their elegance and ethereal appearance. They had a fresh new look, and represented the strength of the American influence that was now deeply embedded in Italian society. Versace’s models had long legs, sexy bottoms and perfectly formed figures. Supermodels appeared to be perfect, and in the eighties, they reflected the consumerist excess. Fashion shows became exclusive for celebrities and supermodels were the focus for the media. Other than supermodels, contemporary and famous celebrities in music and film also represented change and mood. Female pop star Madonna was accredited through for ability to push the boundaries of what was socially acceptable in fashion. 104 Photographers were also important in capturing the aesthetics of Italian fashion. They captured the sexual personality in images that was a growing interest at the time. Gianni Versace employed Richard Avedon for his campaign shoots, and Mario Testino’s photography was noted for its energy, wit and passion in his images captured for Gucci. Testino encapsulated the hard-edged, high profile sexuality of Tom Ford’s clothes, and was known for his extremity of overwhelming sexual passion, with heavy hints of fetishism and perversion in his work for Gucci. His shots for Gucci’s Envy perfume were even considered to be on the verge of obscene. 102 Richard Martin, Contemporary Fashion (New York: St. James Press, 1995), p. 32. 103 McDowell, pp. 95-110. 104 McDowell, pp. 116-154.
  34. 34. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 34 Dolce and Gabbana’s advertising campaigns deal with the joys of sex rather than the pleasure of class. D&G view sex more directly as power.105 Italian fashion labels used sexually explicit images in association with Italian cultural elements, further clarifying its importance to the perception and aesthetics of the identity of Italian fashion. Nevertheless, many of their most prolific campaigns are those shot in Sicily, a part of their cultural heritage, as Domenico Dolce comes from Palermo. Notable is the campaign shot by Steven Meisel featuring Isabella Rossellini and Linda Evangelista. Evangelista was captured looking a lot like Sophia Loren in the fifties. Other notable images from D&G are those from ‘Il Gattopardo’ campaigns (where the name pays homage to the 1958 novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and its 1963 film adaptation by director Luchino Visconti), and ‘La Sicilia’, photographed by Ferdinando Scianna, with Marpessa as the model.106 Fig 2.6.1 The Dolce and Gabbana campaign ad ‘La Sicilia’ (1987) by Ferdinando Scianna.107 During the process of a previously agricultural based civilization to an industry-based mass society, the Italians were able to use this to their economic advantage and create a national product of fashion previously unknown. They were able to successfully cater it to the American and global market by making it Italian through the implementation of Italian-specific culture traits of traditional quality in craftsmanship and artisan work, 105 McDowell, pp. 225-230. 106 McDowell, pp. 231. 107 Gwendolyn, Il Gattopardo <> [accessed 7 October 2014].
  35. 35. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 35 unique design, and adding the strength of a well-established textiles industry. Chapter Three focuses on Gucci, a perfect example of this process of global domination in Italian fashion, by delving into a number of company strategies that make it the most successful Italian fashion label in the world.
  36. 36. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 36 CHAPTER THREE Gucci: Italy’s Most Successful Global Fashion Label This Chapter looks at Gucci, the most powerful Italian fashion house in the world. Established in 1921, it has since grown to be a global phenomenon. Firstly, this chapter takes a look at a brief history of the brand and how it became an exemplar and optimal representation of modern Italian fashion. Gucci went through a massive downfall around the time the company began to lose grip on the concept of quality and exclusivity in the eighties, further proof of the importance these characteristics uphold in the fashion division in Italy. In the early nineties it turned itself around and regained its reputation of quality, glamour and prestige all thanks to the creative genius of American-designer Tom Ford. With the history of traditional artisan craftsmanship, and implementation of product design and marketing strategies targeted specifically to the American audience, the fashion house is a fine specimen of the modern Italian fashion industry in the mass global market. Gucci was specifically chosen for its perfect combination of America’s marketing and industry modeling as well as Italy’s reputation of quality, prestige and traditional craftsmanship. This Chapter also looks at how the company securely transitioned the aesthetics of its solely accessories-based product range, and incorporated it in its high quality ready to wear, a conversion that served for the general success in Italy’s ready to wear industry. 3.1 The birth of Gucci As Aldo Gucci stated ‘Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.’108 The Gucci name has always been associated with elegance and style. The products it produces fall under the ‘Made in Italy’ umbrella, as they are built with high quality and professional Italian craftsmanship, artisan tradition and creativity. 109 The brand originated from Tuscany, and the Tuscans believed that they were, and still are, the true representation of high art and culture in Italy, a tradition instilled through the history of the Florentine merchant class where prior to the Medicis, the city was governed by 108 Sarah Mower, Gucci By Gucci (London: Thames & Hudson,2006), p. 7. 109 Mark Lee, 'Gucci: Made in Italy', Wall Street Journal, Europe, 4 October 2005, p.13.
  37. 37. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 37 merchants and artisan guilds, as overviewed in the second Chapter.110 It is said that the Guccis have been merchants since 1410, from the Renaissance period, a time where the concept of modern Italian fashion was established. A man known as Guccio Gucci, born in Florence in 1881, was able to uphold this family tradition when he opened the first Gucci store in 1921 named ‘Azienda Individuale Guccio Gucci’ in Via Vigna Nuova in Florence. The store sold high quality handcrafted leather goods inspired by the luxury hand-made travel goods he was exposed to during his labour work at The Savoy Hotel in London in the 1890s.111 He sold to foreigners who were frequent visitors to Florence, mainly for holiday purposes. Many came from America and desired to take a Gucci product home as a reminder of their experience. As mentioned in Chapter Two, Italy had not yet built a national fashion identity until the mid-twentieth century, but in the 1920s it was well known to foreigners for its production of high quality accessories (for instance, bags, shoes, and jewelry). Guccio Gucci is a perfect representation of that common trend where Italian artisans and craftsmen would adopt foreign fashion ideas and products suitable to the lifestyle of the wealthy (in Gucci’s case the English bourgeoisie), and make it ‘Italian’ by recreating the products, initially luggage, through the implementation of craftsmanship skills that were brought in by traditional Italian artisans. Furthermore, the artisans within the company were responsible for the completion of the entire bag they assembled, giving them full accountability if any issues were to arise.112 This demonstrated the importance of quality maintenance in Gucci’s production process, and quality is one of the key aspects to the concept of ‘Made in Italy’. Right from the start Guccio was inspired by the sporting pursuits (particularly equestrian) of his leisured and ‘well-off’ customers and incorporated images of saddle riders and riding tack into his products. These elements were to later define the style of the house with the saddle-leather, stitching, brass horse bits and stirrups, shape of saddlebags and nosebags, and canvas webbing of girth-straps using green-red-green stripes.113 This reaffirms the influence of America’s leisure activities to the production 110 Sara Gay Forden, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed (New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2000), pp. 9-10. 111 Mark DeFanti, Deirdre Bird and Helen Caldwell, Forever Now: Gucci’s Use of a Partially Borrowed Heritage to Establish a Global Luxury Brand (2013) < at/Volume%2016%202013/DeFanti%20Bird%20Caldwell%20CHARM%202013%20%20Proceedings.pdf> [accessed 8 September2014]. 112 Fordern, p. 26-27. 113Bridget Foley, ‘Interview and Text’, in Tom Ford (New York: Thames & Hudson,2004), pp. 19-374, p. 25.
  38. 38. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 38 of Italian accessories and later ready to wear, as discussed in Chapter One with reference to the impact of Americanism on Italian production in fashion. This trend is evident in Gucci’s conscious decision to create a certain style and design of luggage and bags that would coincide with the American lifestyle of travel and sport. The store continued to thrive, and even in the late thirties, and during World War II, Guccio Gucci made shoes for the Italian army, as the war itself decreased the number of foreign visitors to his store.114 This was around the same time when the Italian textile industries would collaborate with dressmakers to create soldiers’ uniforms. The connection between the production of shoes and the army was later crucial to Gucci’s ability to meet numerical demands as soon as it broke into the American market. 3.2 The rise of Gucci Guccio Gucci believed that the only way to learn from a business was from the ground up, and he instilled this belief in his children and grandchildren. Together with his three sons Aldo, Vasco and later Rodolfo (also known as Maurizio D’Ancora), they were able to successfully run the family business. Aldo Gucci saw the potential of the label and convinced his father to open other stores throughout Italy, including the ever-so-famous location of 21 Via Condotti in Rome, and the first foreign Gucci store in New York, at East 58th Street in 1953. Guccio Gucci died just two weeks after the New York store’s inauguration, and from that point his sons were to carry on the empire.115 Vasco and Rodolfo continued to run the business, but Aldo held an enormous drive to expand Gucci on a global scale. Aldo was the marketing man behind the company and even began to promote the ‘Gucci concept’ of the equestrian sport, with the harmony of styles and colours influenced by stables and horses, and elements of double-stitching and green and red webbing.116 In his quest to conquer America, he even created the marketing myth that the family’s ancestors were saddle-makers to princes of the Renaissance.117 Many believed him, and this fact can be seen as an example of Italy’s strong ideological influence on America through its culture and lifestyle, and Italian fashion labels, like Gucci, were able to successfully promote it through their products. 114 Fordern, p. 20. 115 James Hansen, ‘Gucci: Smaller, Soberer, and Profitable’, Europe (1995), p. 21. 116 Luisa Zargani, ‘Gucci’s Wild Ride’, Women’s Wear Daily, 118 (2006), p. 4. 117 Foley, p. 25.
  39. 39. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 39 After WWII Gucci became one of the first European status labels and a symbol of quality for money. This was possible through Aldo Gucci’s marketing strategies that aided in making the brand relevant to those that were ‘fashion conscious’ in the world, noted through the roles it played in the lives of the successful and glamorous throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies.118 Hollywood actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Anita Ekberg were photographed carrying Gucci handbags. Actors and actresses who were making movies at Rome’s Cinecittà frequently visited the store in Rome.119 Aldo Gucci knew exactly how to promote the brand to a society that revolved around the need to fare una bella figura and transcend this concept to America.120 Between the fifties and seventies Gucci became a token of wealth and sophistication throughout Europe and across America, as beautiful people continued to be photographed baring its products.121 This is a clear affirmation of how fashion trends from Hollywood stars were perceived as a crucial marketing strategy to the wide range of mass consumers. Furthermore, considering that Rome was the focal point for many high-end Italian labels, Gucci was able to promote Italian style through famous foreign personalities who frequently represented them while in Rome for filming, or just simply on vacation. The association between Gucci and Hollywood carried on in the seventies during the era of glam rock. And in 1975, the image of Rod Stewart and loyal Gucci client Britt Eckland carrying Gucci bags and luggage was the perfect example of this glam rock aspect the label transmitted during this period.122 118 Mower, p. 14. 119 Ibid, p. 15. 120 Zargani, p. 5. 121 Defanti, Bird and Caldwell. 122 Foley, p. 22.
  40. 40. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 40 Fig. 3.2.1 Anita Ekberg posing in a Gucci bag in Rome during the 1960s.123 Aldo Gucci had three sons, Roberto, Giorgio and Paolo, and they were encouraged to take part in the business. Paolo worked well in developing new products and even created Gucci’s first ready to wear. The items were made mostly out of leather and first appeared at the launch of the Gucci store on Rodeo Drive in 1968.124 In the same year one of the first Gucci dresses, a long-sleeved A-line dress, inspired by the Flora scarf of 1966 with thirty-one different colours, was presented at the opening of the Beverly Hills store. The transition from accessories to high-end ready to wear at Gucci is a clear example of how Italian labels were able to maintain the same prestige and quality instilled in Italian accessories with their clothing. Furthermore, the Italian textile industries, with the use of leather and silk, were well represented, and this naturally transcended in the clothes that were made out of their superior fabrics. In July 1969 the full-fledged apparel collection was presented at Rome’s Alta Moda fashion week. The new apparel was both sporty and practical. Aldo’s intention was that women should be able to wear Gucci anytime of the week and not just on special 123 WGSN, Gucci at 90 (2011) <> [accessed 12 September 2014]. 124 Forden, p. 36-39.
  41. 41. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 41 occasions.125 This collection is a clear representation of the trend that took place in the sixties and seventies, where Italian fashion labels consciously chose to construct clothing relevant to the modern woman, who adopted the trend of ‘round-the-clock’ fashion that was both practical and relatable to their everyday life as previously discussed in Chapter One. What Gucci offered with its elegant sportswear was that Italian element of chic style that was characterized in the designs of Emilio Pucci, the first prominent designer to institute a global awareness of the high quality ready to wear industry in Italy. The Gucci Empire was expanding and in 1967 in the Scandicci suburbs of Florence, a new 150,000 square-foot factory was built.126 By the 1970s Gucci’s products ranged from $5 key chains to jewelry worth thousands of dollars per piece. Gucci had a wide variety of products that catered for everyone. By the seventies the fashion house spread across three continents, with ten fully owned stores in major capitals all around the world.127 Gucci was now a true representation of an Italian power fashion label that was able to meet the demands of the consumerist mass market, not only nationally and in America, but all over the world. The company was clearly influenced by and successfully adopted elements of the American industry implemented by the Marshall Plan, and made it Italian with the application of advanced machinery, giving them the ability to create a substantial amount of superior quality products. 3.3 Gucci’s fall and resurrection As the company continued to grow, so did family disputes and lawsuits that took Gucci from unbelievable heights to incredible lows. In the late 1970s Gucci was crossing to black culture for the first time and by the early eighties the brand suffered with knock- offs, coinciding with Aldo Gucci’s release of cheaper Gucci products that flooded across the US market. In underground London and New York Gucci was affiliated with the hip-hop scene, where cheap and fake knock-off products were overflowing, tarnishing the reputation of the brand.128 This all began in 1975 when Aldo Gucci intended to steer more of the company’s profit to Gucci Parfums Spa, a subdivision of the Gucci company, by developing a new 125 Ibid, pp. 48-49. 126 Forden, p. 44. 127 Christopher M. Moore and Grete Britwistle, The nature of parenting advantage in luxury fashion retailing – the case of Gucci group NV, International Journal ofRetail & Distribution Management,33 (2005), p. 261. 128 Foley, p. 27.
  42. 42. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 42 business under its umbrella so that he and his sons would benefit, and not his brother Rodolfo, who in their opinion was disproportionate with his contribution to the company (he owned 50%).129 In 1979 he launched a new diffusion line, Gucci Accessories Collection (GAC), which sold cheap Gucci products. Under this subdivision, the quality and exclusivity of the Gucci brand weakened.130 Resentment among family members grew which triggered many family lawsuits that were to come over the years, particularly during the 1980s and early 1990s. 131 The company was known more for its family issues than its actual brand, and in the process its reputation of quality and prestige was losing grip. Gucci was far too large and corporate to be owned and run by a family that lacked unity and trust and there was no order in the establishment of roles and decision-making. When Maurizio took charge of the company after the death of his father Rodolfo in 1983 he desired to take the company to further global success by renewing the quality and prestige that it had lost, but Gucci was in huge debt and under his reign, it didn’t get any better.132 In 1989 Investcorp, an investment bank, acquired 50% of Gucci to help revive the brand, while the other half continued to be owned by Maurizio.133 This was the beginning of the process of complete public ownership of Gucci. Maurizio kept spending money that Gucci did not have, and the company continued to lose large sums of money (an estimated $30 million in 1991 alone).134 Due to the enormous amount of debt owing, on September 23 1993 Maurizio was forced to sign away his Gucci ownership and Investcorp bought his share for $120 million. 135 In the same year Investcorp made Domenico De Sole the CEO of Gucci and Tom Ford was to become its creative director.136 Under both leaders, Gucci was to become unstoppable and one of the most powerful fashion brands in the 1990s. Despite the massive growth of ready-to-wear, today leather goods continue to reign as the Gucci’s prime sales category, generating 59% of total company sales in 2013. 129 Forden, p. 85-86. 130 Tim Jackson and Carmen Haid, ‘Gucci Group - The new Family of Luxury Brands’, International Journal of New Product Development and Innovation Management, 4 (2002) <> [accessed 3 September 2014]. 131 For more information on the family lawsuits that arose from Maurizio’s acquisition of 50% of the company see Eugene Joseph Dionne, ‘Gucci Family in a ‘Dynasty’ Court Case’, The Globe and Mail, (1985), p. 17. 132 Forden, pp. 113-186. 133 Jackson and Haid. 134 Forden, pp. 242-245. 135 Hansen, p. 21. 136 Moore and Britwistle, p. 261.
  43. 43. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 43 Fig. 3.3.1 Global revenue share of Gucci in 2012 and 2013, by product category.137 Tom Ford was hired as a Gucci designer in 1990, and in 1994 he became the company’s creative director. From that point he took Gucci to a whole new level with his implementation of extraordinary designs.138 Between 1992 and 2004 Tom Ford was able to bring back the successful, glamorous and fashion conscious Gucci of the past, and make it his own vision and image. Ford noticed that the focus was on young consumers and so he decided to turn Gucci into a global synonym for sex and celebrities.139 In doing that he brought back Gucci originals so that the success of the brand in the past could be relived and relatable to the present. His autumn/winter 1995/96 collection in Milan marked the official return of Gucci. It had a cool, movie star, jet set theme to it and he hired Amber Valletta as the model.140 The collaboration of Tom Ford with Gucci can be perceived as the ultimate influence of Americanism on Italian fashion. Ford was born in New York city, giving him the ability to create fashion products containing the 137 Statista, Global revenue share of Gucci in 2012 and 2013, by product category <> [accessed 8 September 2014]. 138 Zargani, p. 6. 139 Terry Jones, ‘Tom Ford’, 100 Temporary Fashion Designers (Taschen 25 Anniversary), ed. by Terry Jones (Köln: Taschen,2009), pp. 188-195. 140 Zargani, p. 6.
  44. 44. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 44 element of ‘sexy,’ which continued to be the dominating trait of modern fashion, and make it relevant to the US and global market. Fig. 3.3.2 Tom Ford for Gucci.141 3.4 Gucci’s products and designs The following designs are some of the most celebrated Gucci objects and prints that form as the perfect exemplars of Italian craftsmanship and aesthetics of their moment. As previously noted, Italian fashion assisted in the creation and strengthening of the concept of ‘Made in Italy’, and the characteristics that have come to define it; quality, prestige, glamour and tradition. The following four Gucci items represent the company’s ability to create an empire that became crucial to the success of the Italian fashion industry on an international scale, particularly in America. 3.4.1 The bamboo The pigskin bamboo-handle bag was created and first released in 1947. The bag, inspired by the smart and sporty shape of a saddle came with a matching bamboo 141 Michael Hainey and Terry Richardson, The Marquis de Sex, (GQ, 2004) < now/200411/tom-ford-gucci-designer-book> [accessed 14 September 2014].
  45. 45. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 45 turnkey lock and curvilinear functionality.142 It was developed during wartime shortages, but in order to maintain the desired exclusivity of the brand, Guccio Gucci decided to import bamboo from Japan. The bag was also produced in canapa canvas and pigskin material due to other leather shortages at the time.143 The bag is considered a Florentine fashion innovation as it successfully blends tradition and history with high-tech innovation and high fashion.144 It is a perfect example of modern design and superior artisan craftsmanship and textile production that Florentine fashion has been able to maintain since the Renaissance. The bamboo was later designed on multiple Gucci products, including umbrella handles and Gucci loafers. This bag gave Gucci international recognition as a landmark design and a popular piece among American and Italian movie stars.145 It even graced the editorial pages of Vogue in its May 1954 issues, and is one of a number of 21st century Gucci reinventions by the company’s current creative director Frida Giannini, demonstrating the longevity in its design.146 142 For an official and chronological visual presentation of the bamboo icon and its implementation on bags and other Gucci products over the years see Guccio Gucci S.p.A., The New Bamboo (2012) <> [accessed 13 August 2014]. 143Foley, p. 376. 144 Cecily Hall, Then & Now: Gucci's Bamboo Bag (2014) <> [accessed 28 July 2014]. 145 Chunxiao Li, Study on the Application of Visualized Brand Identity in Bag Design (2012) <> [accessed 3 September 2014]. 146 Foley, p. 25.
  46. 46. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 46 Fig. Ilaria Occhini is one of the first Italian actresses to be carrying the classic Gucci handbag with the bamboo handle.147 3.4.2 The Flora scarf In 1966 Rodolfo Gucci created the silk Flora scarf, a Gucci icon containing a multicoloured flowered template designed by Italian artist Vittorio Accornero. Initially it was custom made and presented as a gift to Princess Grace of Monaco by Rodolfo Gucci in 1966, but soon became a permanent resident in the Gucci product chain.148 Since its debut, Gucci’s silk division expanded and adapted the use of the silk pattern on apparel, bags, accessories, jewelry and even clothes.149 The transition of the Flora scarf print onto clothing is a practical demonstration of the gradual success of Italy’s ready to wear fashion, through the already well-established and recognized Italian textile industry (particularly silk) and accessories. The Flora scarf continues to be reinvented and reproduced today as Charlotte Casiraghi, the granddaughter of Princess Grace of Monaco, was cleverly featured in Gucci’s 2013 ‘Forever Now’ campaign holding the same Flora pattern scarf that her grandmother was given in 1966. Frida Giannini states that the scarf today “is a symbol of the Gucci woman’s effortless fusion of tradition and contemporary poise.”150 147 Word Press, Archivi tag per 50’s (Gucci Archive, 2014) <>[accessed 2 September, 2014]. 148 The Times, Gucci Flora scarf. Frida Giannini recommends… (London: News International Trading Limited, 2013) < > [accessed 25 August 2014]. 149 Women’s Wear Daily, Charlotte Casiraghi Fronts for Gucci's Forever Now Campaign (2013) <> [accessed 14 August 2014]. 150 Turra.
  47. 47. Master of European Studies Jacob Nassif Dept. Italian Studies: Master’s Thesis SID: 311134564 47 Fig. An image of the 2013 Gucci ad campaign features Charlotte Casiraghi holding the same Flora scarf pattern that was given to her grandmother, Princess Grace of Monaco in 1966.151 151 Daily Mail Australia, Charlotte Casiraghi poses for new Gucci campaign wearing iconic Flora scarf made for grandmother Grace Kelly in the Sixties (2013) < Casiraghi-poses-new-Gucci-campaign-wearing-iconic-Flora-scarf-grandmother-Grace-Kelly-Sixties.html> [accessed 1 September 2014].