What came first? Milan or Florence? You say Milano, I say Firenze. Yes, as history had it, Florence was the chosen site for the first large-scale fashion capital in post-WWII era Italy– the place where Italians strutted their goods for international editors and U.S. buyers alike, making Florence a natural follow-up to the Paris collections.
Many factors were at play in this rags to riches’ story. Thanks to the Marshall Plan (1948-1951), Italy’s industrial reconstruction showed great resilience. Its battered textile industry rebounded into production with a vengeance and began to produce, once again, the quality silks and woolens for which they had become known, as well as newly developed synthetics, thanks to DuPont.
The impresario behind the first full-scale Italian fashion presentation was Giovanni Battista Giorgini, an elegant aristocrat who used his charm and connections to pull-off the impossible… Get the international press and buyers to stop by for a few days.
If his first foray was a presentation at the beautiful Villa Torrigiani on February 1951, 1952 marked the birth of the collections, as we know them today in Milan.
From 1952 on, La Salla Bianca (the White Room), in the famed Palazzo Pitti, showcased what Italy had to offer. Giorgini had the brilliant idea to simplify and to categorize the line-up –Boutique, Leisurewear, Sportswear, and Alta Moda. Luxury textiles were Italy’s trademark with plenty of fur, of course! And this new presentation format not only helped the buyers select with greater ease, but heightened the drama and excitement.
Luckily for him, designers Giovanna Caracciolo, Alberto Fabiani, Emilio Pucci and Emilio Schuberth, were on board to wow the audience. Soon after, Renato Balestra, Roccobarocco, Krizia, Missoni and Valentino were added to the mix.
Florence would reign supreme until the late 1970s, as every designer aspired to present their collections in the famous Salla Biancha. It was as if being invited to take part in the show was a symbol of prestige and a much sought after honor. Florence may not have dethroned Paris, but this Italian fashion outpost was certainly an equal.
Next: Milan changes the game.
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