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FLANNELS Five: Cult Italian Designers

FLANNELS Five: Cult Italian Designers

The names of Italy’s feted designers roll off the tongue like a who’s who of undisputed fashion legends. Gianni and Donatella Versace, Giorgio Armani, Guccio Gucci and his most recent successor Alessandro Michele. Prada, Valentino, Giuseppe Zanotti and the king of technical himself, Massimo Osti, also hail from the land of la dolce vita. Their contribution to the fashion industry is inestimable. In Italy, style is a way of life, something to be both enjoyed and taken seriously. The “Made In Italy” label carries with it to this day a mark of guaranteed quality and finesse. Here is our ultimate guide to some of the country’s finest design exports.


Donatella Versace is an absolute hero. One day, myths will circulate about her – the hair, the tan, the style. Un-coincidentally, ancient Greek history is a running theme in Versace's collections – informing the design features that have become the brand’s calling cards. It was Donatella’s brother, Gianni Versace, that was first inspired by myth. The story of Gianni’s untimely murder has just been turned into an American Crime Story (we’re already hooked), a fabulously decadent docudrama about his demise – all sun-bleached Miami scenes and Euro-trash ‘90s fashion. Despite what this blockbuster TV programme might have you believe, he was famous for far more than his assassination. Friend to Eric Clapton, Diana, Naomi Campbell, Madonna, Elton John, Cher and Sting, he was one of the first designers to make a fashion show a spectacle, bringing the worlds of music and fashion together.


By now, Gucci needs no introduction – it’s part of the fashion zeitgeist and practically embedded in our culture. On the flip-side, a reminder of its basic heritage will ensure you know your horsebits from your house web – there are few things more embarrassing than a loafer-related faux pas, after all. Founded by Guccio Gucci in 1921, the brand started life as a fine luggage and leather goods manufacturer. Its equine references stem from the aristocratic clientele Gucci courted during the maison’s establishment. It quickly became the go-to for the world’s social elite – the bags found their way onto the arms of Hollywood royalty and political figures alike. Now, creative designer Alessandro Michele is interpreting Gucci in his own uniquely inimitable way with references that span the ages and high-octane prints and styling.


Dolce & Gabbana is the ultimate Made In Italy project. Their collections are infused with the Mediterranean passion of its two chief designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. It’s the starting point for all of their designs as we experience clothing through the eyes of two Sicilian creatives whose imaginations are entrenched in the sandy shores and warm sunshine of Italy. Putting on their clothes is like stepping off the plane. The crowning glory in the Dolce & Gabbana iconography system is – pun intended – the crown, whilst motifs inspired by Sicilian folklore and South Italian food make up part of the rich tapestry that is the brand’s unmistakable aesthetic. The Dolce & Gabbana man is effortless, stylish and hedonistic, with a penchant for tradition matched only by a love of the new. You want to be him.


Whilst this iconic fashion house may be more synonymous with Paris than Milan, its namesake founder is unmistakably Italian. Valentino Garavani, one of the most beloved and outrageous characters in the industry, whose elegant designs have made an indelible impression on style. A master of couture, we would like to personally high five him for the fashion-related friendships he’s forged over the years. Dressing the glitterati means it’s not uncommon to see him strolling around with a couple of super models hanging off his arm. Drawing dresses doesn’t seem like such a cop-out after all now, does it? These days, with Pierpaolo Piccioli at the helm, Valentino’s menswear continues to reimagine the maison’s signature tropes for the modern man, with camouflage and slick athletic silhouettes.


Even in the modern world, when fur is losing its edge, still no list of cult Italian designers would be complete without a reference to Fendi. Founded in Rome in 1925, it’s up there with Gucci as one of the most storied fashion houses in the world. It all began with a secret fur workshop on the Via de Plebiscito in Rome, and five sisters who, in 1965, invited a young and hitherto little known designer to work with them – Karl Lagerfeld. The man is now one of fashion’s most famous designers and can be attributed with taking Fendi from small Roman furrier to global luxury powerhouse. At a time when designers are lucky to spend five seasons at a fashion house, he’s spent five decades. He transformed fur – mink, astrakhan and sable – reworking it into something light, modern, playful and wearable through the application of pioneering techniques wrought by skilled craftspeople. The recent show in Milan was a high-fashion mix of logo fur jackets, intarsia shearling and transparent anoraks.