* Victoria & Albert museum puts spotlight on Italian fashion
* Craftsmanship shows in Italian garments - designer Ford
* Italian clothes make women look fabulous - actress Hurley
By Rollo Ross
LONDON, April 2 Rarely seen Bulgari jewellery
once owned by actress Elizabeth Taylor and suits, dresses, gowns
and accessories by top names in post-war Italian fashion will be
on display at an exhibition opening this week at London's
Victoria & Albert Museum.
"The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014", which opens on
Friday, "examines Italy's rich and influential contribution to
fashion from the end of the Second World War to the present",
the V&A said in a press release.
The exhibition includes some 120 ensembles and accessories
by fashion houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani,
Fendi, Ginafranco Ferre, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Pucci and
Versace, plus couture from Giambattista Valli, ready-to-wear
from Fausto Publisi and work from Valentino's designers Maria
Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli.
"I think the craftsmanship is what is really so attractive
about Italian-produced goods," American designer Tom Ford said
at a celebrity pre-opening event on Tuesday night.
Actress Elizabeth Hurley, who shot to fame wearing a Versace
dress at the premiere of the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral",
said Italian designers add that little bit extra.
"I think they love the female body and I think they love
women and they like women to look fabulous so I like it. I
approve," Hurley said.
Post-war Italy had a strong textile industry but its fashion
was mostly ignored by international buyers until businessman
Giovanni Battista Giorgini set up Italy's first catwalk shows in
the early 1950s and invited the press from all around the world,
exhibition curator Sonnet Stanfill said.
"If Christian Dior is credited with restarting the French
couture industry in 1947 with his new look, I think we also have
to give equivalent credit to Giorgini for launching the Italian
fashion industry," Stanfill said.
"The American buyers really responded warmly to this rainbow
of couture gowns and in addition the Italian designs were about
a third the cost of their Paris equivalents so there was that
excitement of discovery as well as the cheaper price."
Hollywood stars caught on to Italian fashion and the V&A
exhibition shows not only the Bulgari jewels worn by Taylor but
dresses worn by Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn.
"Fashions worn by Hollywood celebrities on the streets of
Rome when they were on set and off set and their romances while
they were filming were chronicled by the paparazzi and the
popular press," Stanfill said. "That media attention really
shone a spotlight on a whole generation of Italian designers."
The exhibition finishes with a short documentary about the
issues facing the future of the Italian fashion industry
including competition from lower-wage markets such as India and
Asia and also the marketing power of the established fashion
houses, which makes it harder for newcomers to gain a foothold.
"The landscape is changing," Stanfill said. "That's what
makes this a really interesting moment to open this exhibition."
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Louise Ireland)