Italian fashion became prominent during the 11th to 16th centuries, when artistic development in Italy was at its peak. Cities such as Palermo, Venice, Milan, Naples, Florence and Vicenza started to produce luxury goods, hats, cosmetics, jewelry and rich fabrics. From the 17th century to the early 20th, Italian fashion lost its importance and lustre and Europe's main trendsetter became France, with the great popularity of French fashion; this is due to the luxury dresses which were designed for the courtiers of Louis XIV. However, since the 1951–53 fashion soirées held by Giovanni Battista Giorgini in Florence, the "Italian school" started to compete with the French haute couture, and labels such as Ferragamo and Gucci began to contend with Chanel and Dior. In 2009, according to the Global Language Monitor, Milan, Italy's centre of design, was ranked the top fashion capital of the world, and Rome was ranked fourth, and, although both cities fell in subsequent rankings, in 2011, Florence entered as the 31st world fashion capital. Milan is generally considered to be one of the "big four" global fashion capitals, along with New York City, Paris, and London; occasionally, the "big five" also includes Rome.
Italian fashion is linked to the most generalized concept of "Made in Italy", a merchandise brand expressing excellence of creativity and craftsmanship. Italian luxury goods are renowned for the quality of the textiles and the elegance and refinement of their construction. Many French, British and American high-top luxury brands (such as Chanel, Dior, Balmain and the main line of Ralph Lauren) also rely on Italian craft factories, located in highly specialized areas in the metropolitan area of Naples and in the centre-north of Italy (Tuscany, Marche, Veneto and Piedmont), to produce parts of their apparel and accessories.
The nonprofit association that co-ordinates and promotes the development of Italian fashion is the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana), now led by Carlo Capasa. It was set up in 1958 in Rome and now is settled in Milan and represents all the highest cultural values of Italian fashion. This association has pursued a policy of organisational support aimed at the knowledge, promotion and development of fashion through high-profile events in Italy and abroad.
Luxury sportswear and streetwear have become general fashion trends, mixing high and low, formal and active style in one look and also in this segment Italy, apart from big luxury brands focused on ready to wear (or couture) developing their own streetstyle lines or items such as Gucci, Fendi, Moschino and Prada or top brands with a strong sporty heritage like Bikkembergs, has got a few high end companies focused on this style like Marcelo Burlon County of Milan, GCDS, OFF White directed by American Virgil Abloh but based in Milan, Palm Angels, Danilo Paura, Stone island. In sportswear some of the most prominent houses are Diadora, Fila, Kappa and Lotto.
A few Italian designers head some important fashion brands outside Italy. Riccardo Tisci had been working for French luxury house Givenchy for twelve years until 2017 and in 2018 was named new Burberry creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri after co-heading at Valentino together with Pier Paolo Piccioli now is the first female creative director ever at Dior, French fashion brand Rochas is created by Alessandro Dell'Acqua, Marco Colagrossi heads Ungaro after a few years under the directorship of Fausto Puglisi, Nino Cerruti founded his own Paris-based fashion house, Giambattista Valli's main ready to wear and high fashion lines are set in Paris and Stefano Pilati was for almost eight years Saint Laurent's head designer.
Among the newest labels or younger designers, the most prominent are Aquilano.Rimondi (latest Gianfranco Ferré's directors), Attico, Au jour le jour, Sara Battaglia, Angelos Bratis, Cristiano Burani, Paula Cademartori, Erika Cavallini, Gabriele Colangelo, Co-Te, Marco De Vincenzo, Dondup, Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, Stella Jean, Angelo Marani, Rodolfo Paglialunga, Maurizio Pecoraro, Christian Pellizzari, Piccione.Piccione, Andrea Pompilio, Fausto Puglisi, San Andres Milano, Francesco Scognamiglio, Ultrachic, Vivetta and Alberto Zambelli.
Italian fashion is dominated by Milan, Rome, and to a lesser extent, Florence, with the former two being included in the top 30 fashion capitals of the world. Nonetheless, there are numerous other cities which play an important role in Italian fashion.
Luxury boutiques along Florence's prestigious Via de' Tornabuoni.
Florence is regarded by some as the birthplace and earliest centre of the modern (post World War Two) fashion industry in Italy. The Florentine "soirées" of the early 1950s organized by Giovanni Battista Giorgini were events where several now-famous Italian designers participated in group shows and first garnered international attention. Florence has served as the home of the Italian fashion company Salvatore Ferragamo since 1928. Gianfranco Lotti, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Ermanno Scervino, Stefano Ricci, Patrizia Pepe, Enrico Coveri and Emilio Pucci were also founded and most of them are still headquartered in Florence. Other major players in the fashion industry such as Prada and Chanel have large offices and stores in Florence or its outskirts. Florence's main upscale shopping street is Via de' Tornabuoni, where major luxury fashion houses and jewelry labels, such as Armani and Bulgari, have their elegant boutiques. Via del Parione and Via Roma are other streets that are also well known for their high-end fashion stores.
Although Milan, Rome and Florence are commonly regarded as the leading cities in Italian fashion, other cities, such as Venice, Vicenza, Turin, Naples and Bologna, are also important centres for Italian clothing design and industry. Venice, for instance, is the home of Italian fashion house Roberta di Camerino, which was founded in 1945. The brand is famous for its handbags, and is most notably associated with the creation of the it bag, a form of handbag which is recognisable due to its status symbol. Brands such as Max Mara and United Colors of Benetton, despite being major Italian brands, are not headquartered in Milan, Rome or Florence, yet, the former has its headquarters in Reggio Emilia, and the latter in Ponzano Veneto.
Italian holding OTB held by Renzo Rosso, owner of different ready-to-wear brands such as Diesel and also fashion houses like Marni, Dutch label Viktor & Rolf and Belgian Maison Martin Margiela, is headquartered in the countryside near Vicenza in the region of Veneto. Italian companies Cesare Paciotti and also Tod's, owned by businessman Diego Della Valle (which produces luxury shoes, other leather goods and also clothes under the labels of Tod's itself, Roger Vivier, Hogan, Fay and haute couture brand Schiaparelli), Santoni, Bontoni are headquartered in the region of Marche, a very important manufacturing district for shoes and leather components in the Adriatic coast. Fashion houses Fabiana Filippi and Brunello Cucinelli's home is the region of Umbria and luxury brands Kiton and Harmont & Blaine were founded in Naples which is also another prominent area of the country for the manufacturing of apparel and accessories (especially shoes and leather goods in general around the district of Solofra).
The Milan Fashion Week takes place twice a year after the London Fashion Week and before the Paris Fashion Week. It is scheduled as the third of the four most important and global international ready-to-wear fashion weeks of the calendar during the so-called fashion month. Dates are determined by the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. Some of the locations where fashion shows are held are Milan's Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Serbelloni, Padiglione Visconti, Spazio delle Cavallerizze at Leonardo Da Vinci museum and many others.Another prominent platform for men's collections and new projects in fashion industry is Pitti Immagine in Florence at the Fortezza da Basso, held twice a year a few days before the Milanese man's fashion week.
Dagmar Reichardt, Moda Made in Italy. Il linguaggio della moda e del costume italiano, edited and with a preface by Dagmar Reichardt and Carmela D'Angelo (Ed.), presenting an interview with Dacia Maraini, Firenze, Franco Cesati Editore, (Civiltà italiana. Terza serie, no. 10), 2016, (ISBN978-8876675768), 230 pp.