What springs to mind when you think of Italy? The food, the wine, the sun, perhaps George Clooney sitting by Lake Como….and permeating all of those things, the style! The  effortless glamour and allure which, no matter how hard we try to recreate, Italians seem to emit with frustrating insouciance. It was with this in mind, and our finest accessories in hand, that the Semple team visited the latest exhibition to open at Somerset House – Masters of Style: Celebrating the stories behind Italian fashion.

Marking the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, the exhibition is a celebration of Italian Style and its lasting influence on the fashion world. Curated by leading fash-pack commentator Colin McDowell, it looks at Italy’s most influential fashion houses – Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Missoni and Prada – showcasing a selection of images from their collections and archives that mark some of their most defining moments.

Gucci S/S 1991 Photographer Lance Stadler “One of the inspirations for the Aquariva by Gucci boat. As part of the celebrations for Gucci’s 90th year, I have worked with Riva on designing the “Aquariva by Gucci” boat. This picture was inspirational for me as I wanted the Aquariva by Gucci to celebrate the era of La Dolce Vita, when glamour and elegance defined an attitude and a lifestyle.” Frida Giannini
Dolce & Gabbana S/S 2011 Photographer Steven Klein “The passion of Sicilian women: the emotion of a look, the play on lights and shadows in an artistic, black and white photograph, slight transparencies, but the rest is all left up to the imagination and to one’s feelings.” Stefano Dolce & Domenico Gabbana

From Gucci’s first ever print advert to more modern iconography such as Dolce & Gabbana’s black and white lace covered nuns, Ferragamo’s multicoloured silk headscarves to Missoni’s iconic striped knits. It’s all there and is nicely supported by personal stories, reflections and anecdotes from the designers themselves which give a rare insight into what went into creating the images we’re all familiar with.

Salvatore Ferragamo A/W 1994-95 Photographer Aldo Fallai The Italian Renaissance is ever present in Italian art and fashion. This Ferragamo scarf has the intense colours and richness of the ceiling in a boric church and the ancestral flag of a noble family. Yet it still has the ability to be modern, wearable and exceedingly flattering. Colin McDowell
Missoni S/S 2003 Photographer Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott Under the guidance of Angela Missoni, the fashion that bears this company’s famous name has become much sexier both in the use of materials and in the way they are presented, as this picture by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott of Gisele demonstrates. Colin McDowell

From the setting, to the imagery and presentation – the collections are housed in six unique pavilions designed by the art world’s favourite architects Carmody Groarke – the exhibition is stylishly executed and perfectly commemorates the passion, flair and creativity of Italian style. If you fancy indulging your inner fashionista this is an inspiring   exhibition and a picture perfect overview of what Italian style is all about – in the words of McDowell, ‘…doing it properly, doing it without fuss, doing it chicly.’

Vicky Addinall


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