Italian Fashion Insights

Freelance journalist Mary Johnston shares her insights about the world of Italian Fashion.

Charlotte Casiraghi, Gucci
Charlotte Casiraghi, Gucci

Gucci by fervent-adepte-de-la-mode (CC BY 2.0).

During my time in Italy, I have learned that there are a few things that are just innate in the people of this beautiful country. They are just born knowing how to love food, traditions, art and fashion. Fashion has always been an important aspect of the Italian lifestyle and it is something that has been going on for centuries.

In fact, Italy has been one of the leading countries in the fashion industry together with France, Great Britain, Japan and the U.S., standing out in the crowd throughout the 11th and 16th centuries, when the very first fashion designers in cities like Milan, Rome and Venice started creating and producing luxury goods, hats and jewellery of high quality. They soon became very well known and appreciated and celebrities from all over the world came to Italy to buy original clothes and accessories. But then unfortunately Italy lost its lustre in the 17th century and was replaced in the kingdom of fashion by the French haute couture for the courtiers of Louis XIV.

Then, since 1950, Italy has found its allure again and major fashion designers like Armani, Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Cavalli and Gucci have been lighting up the catwalks of the best fashion shows of every continent, with Milan being one of the top fashion capitals of the world. A huge number of the most important Italian fashion houses are now based in Milan. Just think of Prada, Armani, Moschino, Miu Miu, Trussardi and many others, you will find them in the Lombard capital. And of course, Milan is full of fashion agencies. Also, twice a year, Milan fashion weeks, the most important Italian clothing and fashion exhibitions, are organized by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion. If you would like to participate, you should know, that the first fashion week of the year dedicated to autumn and winter collections is always held always in spring (precisely in February or March), meanwhile the spring and summer collections are presented during autumn (in September or October). Once the dates have been established, it’s preferable to book your stay almost immediately, because during important events, Milan gets really overcrowded and the accommodation prices tend to increase. Also, Milan isn’t as big as for example Rome and that’s the reason why also public transport gets easily full. Fortunately there are online booking providers such as that make the search for a nice and not too expensive accommodation in Milan easier.


Cavalli by fervent-adepte-de-la-mode

Returning to Italian fashion, it has to be said that Hollywood stars addressed – and still do – to the most famous Italian designers to get a unique piece of clothing for a première or a gala, knowing that Italian glamour has always been a synonym of high quality and style. However, lately, many think that the Italian fashion and style have been declining and that Italian designers have nothing new to say. While other fashion capitals like London, New York and Seoul, are constantly producing young talents that design and create collections with different influences and a more contemporary approach, the best and most famous Italian fashion designers are still those you heard about ten or twenty years ago, whose style is very well known and probably too conventional for 2014. Italian fashion is considered to be all about conservatism, appropriateness and tradition, and when you think about the Italian glamour, you think about the past and something that does not exude personality, but only elegance and old style.

But this is starting to change. The big brand names of the fashion history are moving to the side, giving more opportunities to young designers and fashion talents. The creative direction of these huge brands does not pass through the family anymore: designers like Gucci or Valentino are betting everything on new talents such as Frida Giannini, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli. The recently closed “Glamour of Italian Fashion” exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the proof of this new reverse trend: it celebrated the history and beauty of the Italian glamour looking at its future and the ideas of the new guard.


About the contributor:

Mary Johnson collaborates and writes for various local and international websites and magazines since 2010. She is British, likes reading, hiking, she loves animals and is also a passionate traveller.



Thanks so much to Mary for this article and guest post, hope to collaborate with her again soon .

Postcards from Sicily: the spirit of things


Quattro fontane Messina


There are literally hundreds of water fountains all over Italy gushing with water, Baroque details and sculpture.

Often we are mesmerized by the immense works of art without seeing the cute little details.

This grumpy little water god got my attention when he blew in my ear as I walked by the old ‘Quattro Fontane’ near the center of Messina.

Unfortunately there is no more water as only half of the fountain survived the earthquake and tsunami of early last century.

The fountain’s ghost spoke to me and I thought I’d share it’s spirit.




Sicilian impressions: beauty in the details


Duomo Messina Madonna


Often beauty is in the fine detail.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the immense works of art all over Italy, yet while trying to take in the whole you often miss the subtle aspects.

This detail above the main door at the Duomo of Messina is as magnificent as the entire church.

I’ll go as far as to say it is an apt summary of the elegant Norman lines and simple religiosity of this building.

Be sure to see what is directly before your eyes before trying to take in the infinite.


Postcards from Sicily: Fiat 500


Mini Fiat 500


The Fiat 500 is an enigmatic symbol of Italy. I’ve lost track of the amount of people who say this is their dream car.

I am constantly coming across these cute Italian creations, which are easy to park in cramped car parks all over Italy.

The cinquecento is featured on endless tourist souvenirs from tea towels, t shirts, beach towels and miniature models.

Here is particular open topped model which I  saw at an antique fair at Noto, Syracuse.

Small but packed with character.




Festa time at Capo D’orlando, Messina.


It’s become a tradition at this time of year to attend a series of Festa’s or celebrations dedicated to patron saints that are common to most towns here in Sicily, not out of any particular religious desire but simply to have a day out, rummage through the endless stalls and perhaps start buying those pesky Christmas presents!

I’m a sucker for an open air market, in all parts of Europe, whether it be an antique market in London, a fresh flower market in Rome or our weekly home town market for fresh fruit and vegetables I simply can’t get enough of them.

The humble market is such a vibrant part of life here, filled with colour, confusion and the promise of discovering something unexpected and new. The trick is to go with an open adventurous spirit, don’t go and do something stupid like write a list because if you look down to read it you may miss out on spotting something wonderful.


Some bickering, banter and wheeling and dealing is always the case at markets in general, as you negotiate the best price.


There is always a bit of everything from household goods, haberdashery, textiles, hardware, CD’s, costume jewelry, clothes, shoes, helium balloons to attract the young and sweets to tempt the young at heart.


The locals are here to renew their wardrobe, with clothing that looks expensive but really are discounted copies. It’s all about appearance baby, even in the financial crisis la la land that Italy has become, people still want to look good.



I even found myself negotiating with an African friend, who pulled his ripped off designer bags out of a suitcase and onto a white sheet he put on the ground, for a Coco Chanel maxi bag, not bad for 15 Euro!


I am attracted by the eclectic nature of each stall, some are just plain seedy, while others are exotic and filled with fashionable surprises.




I’ve particularly fallen in love with African and Moroccan wood carving, but I haven’t had the courage to buy anything after I heard a story about someone who got termites from untreated wood. If I could be sure that the wood would be safe I’d love to get some smaller animal pieces for my son to play with or perhaps start a collection as every year they come up with different creations!



That’s all from Capo D’orlando for this year’s Festa of the Madonna (22nd October), next month there is a festa in our adoptive home town Sinagra (4th November) and then a massive Fiera, which is a mega open air trade and animal market that takes over the town at Sant’Agata di Militello (14th/15th November), it is one of the oldest markets in Sicily, dating back to the 1700’s and brings together commerce from the provinces of Palermo, Catania, Messina and Enna.