Between 21st to 26th September, Milan will host Milan Fashion Week, attracting the fashion industry’s biggest names from around the globe.
Here we explore how Italy has inspired and shaped five of its most successful fashion designers, leading to them being some of the industry’s biggest players.
Giorgio Armani is described as a true Italian designer and a design ‘legend’. In 2001 Armani was named by Forbes as Italy’s most successful fashion designer. Giorgio Armani was born in a small town in the northern region of Piacenza, in 1934. Fashion design wasn’t always the genius’ first career choice as before fashion he aspired to have a career in medicine, enrolling in the Department of Medicine at the University of Milan. From there he joined the army and that took him to an infirmary in Verona. During his time he enjoyed many an evening at the Arena in Verona and fell in love with the romantic city.
His career in the fashion industry started in the fashion capital, Milan. Armani started as a window dresser at a department store before embracing his talent as a designer in the 1960’s. The king of tailored suits has singlehandedly created his multi-billion dollar fashion empire, working his way up from the bottom, making just $14,000 in sales in his first year, to where his is now, at the helm of a company worth an astonishing $7 billion. The empire now owns over 250 stores in 33 countries worldwide.
Spending most of his design career in stylish Milan, Giorgio Armani now splits his personal time between three stunning properties. The fashion legend owns a beautiful retreat in the Engadine Valley in Switzerland, gorgeous villas on the island of Antigua, and a two-storey house, located a block from the sea on the Versilia Coast of Italy.
Dolce and Gabbana
The Dolce & Gabbana brand was devised by creative geniuses, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, and is now considered to be one of the most influential and powerful designer labels in the world.
Stefano Gabbana was born on 14 November 1962 in Venice, whilst Domencio Dolce was born on 13 September 1958 in a small village in Sicily. Dolce was brought up and studied fashion design on the stunning island of Sicily, whereas Gabbana headed straight for the fashion capital, Milan, where he studied graphic design and gained some work experience in fashion as an assistant in an atelier. The pair met in Milan and by 1982 they had started their first fashion consulting studio. In 1985 they showed their first women’s collection in the city.
Some of the couple’s most famous creations include the underwear-as-outerwear and gangster boss pinstripe suit. They are one of the world’s most successful ready-to-wear companies and their designs are regularly seen on Hollywood’s elite.
The couple are no longer together however over previous years have resided in a 19th century mini-villa in Milan.
Donatella Versace is just one member of the famous Versace family. Donatella Versace is the current Vice-President of the Versace empire and her brother, Gianni Versace, was the founder of the Versace Group. Donatella Versace became a designer in her own right when she was awarded with her own label, Versus. However, following the tragic death of Gianni Versace in 1997, Donatella took over the whole company.
Donatella’s creative mind led her to using her celebrity friends as models for catwalk shows, knowing it would get her brands good press. In fact, Donatella is famously known for being the first designer to use noteworthy celebrities to showcase her clothing. The likes of Madonna, Demi Moore and Elton John have all walked in Versace shows. Despite dreaming of being a successful PR professional, Donatella has shown her versatility and strength continuing the success of the Versace brand event throughout personal tragedy.
Donatella Versace still lives in Milan, in an incredibly stylish mansion, furnished with Versace products.
Valentino Garavani was born in the small town of Voghera, Italy on 11 May 1932. Fashion had been a dream of Valentino’s since he was a young child, completing his formal training in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. However, he originally started apprenticing under local designers including his aunt Rosa.
The founder of notable fashion brands Valentino SPA, Valentino Roma, Valentino Garavani, RED Valentino and Valentino, is listed in the top ten wealthiest fashion designers in the world with an estimated wealth of $1.5 billion. Valentino’s work is worn by celebrities, fashion models and royal families alike.
Over the years, Valentino has lived in some of the most stunning cities in Europe. Following his studies in Paris he moved to Rome, opening a fashion house in 1959. Although Milan is considered one of the world’s fashion capitals, Rome is arguably one of Italy’s most fashion-forward cities.
Known for his incredible creations in denim and printed leather, Roberto Cavalli is one of the most sought after fashion designers in the world. Cavalli was born in the art and culture capital of Europe, Florence, and since showcasing his first collection at 30-years-old, has created a fashion empire valued at $1 billion.
Roberto Cavalli was the mastermind behind the very first sand-blasted-look jeans and also exotic and striking patterns on fabrics. The Italian fashion designer is responsible for brands including, Just Cavalli, Cavalli’s children’s clothing line, Cavalli wine and Cavalli vodka. Boutiques selling his lines expand to over 50 countries worldwide.
Roberto Cavalli still lives in his hometown, with his current home set in the beautiful Florentine hills. The 32-acre estate features an array of ancient art, a collection of pets and birds plus an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi and a helipad.
Cavalli’s life in Florence has had a huge influence on the fashion designer we know today. With a combination of a tailor as a mother and an impressionist artist-grandfather, his education at the Florence Academy of Art, and the artistic surroundings of such a beautiful city, it is easy to see where the inspiration for his empire has come from.
Want to go shopping in Milan? Read our guide to shopping in Italy’s fashion capital.