The Glamour of Italian Fashion

Opening this weekend is the V&A's major Spring show, 'The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2104'.

Charting the rise of Italian fashion over the last 70 years, the exhibition follows the pivotal events, production innovations and individuals that have created an industry feted today for its glamour, sophistication and luxury.

Evening dress of silk, Roberto Capucci

The curator of the exhibition, Sonnet Stanfill who is also curator of 20th century and contemporary fashion at the V&A, has drawn together over 100 ensembles and accessories by many of Italy's famous fashion houses.

Visitors to the exhibition can admire the elegance and seductive style of Valentino, Prada and Armani, the intricacy of knitwear by Missoni, and fine leatherwork by Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci.

Elizabeth Taylor wears Bulgari jewellery at the masked ball, Hotel Ca'Rezzonico, Venice

For jewellery lovers there will also be a rare opportunity to view the sheer opulence of a private collection of Bulgari jewels.

As more films were being shot on location in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor became style icons for Italian fashion. The American market, in particular, began to take note.

Taylor's husband Richard Burton even famously quipped 'the only word Liz knows in Italian is Bulgari'.

Valentino posing with models nearby Trevi Fountain, Rome

Rather than just being an amazing roll call of today's international design labels, the exhibition also offers the visitor a unique perspective in its examination of these early years.

In preparing the exhibition, Curator Stanfill has carefully researched the world of the Sala Bianca, pictured above, which is often regarded as the post-war birthplace of Italian fashion.

The Sala Bianca was the dream of an Italian business man called Giovanni Battista Giorgini who, whilst exporting Italian-made luxury goods to America, saw an opportunity to promote Italian artisanship and style. A gentleman, without profiting personally from the initiative, Giorgini was also a marketing genius.

Hiring crystal chandeliers, catwalk models and the surroundings of the famous Pitti Palace in Firenze, Giorgini introduced the Italian fashion industry to the world within just a few successful seasons.

Women’s knitted ensemble, Missoni

The exhibition finishes with a video debate on the future of Italian fashion and questions its role in a world of overseas production and fast-fashion.

Promising to be a thought-provoking and affectionate look at the status of 'Made in Italy' today, the 'Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014' opens on 5th April until 27 July 2014 at the V&A, London.