Reconstructing Italian Fashion: America and the Development of the Italian Fashion Industry

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Bloomsbury Academic, Jun 1, 2000 - Design - 224 pages

Despite its long eclipse by Parisian couture, Italian fashion is now celebrated globally for the quality of its tailoring, fabric and design. But an Italian label was not always a yardstick for excellence. In the twenty years following the Second World War, a little known fact is that America played a key role in the development of Italy's fashion industry. More generally known is that the Marshall Plan had a formative influence on the financial and industrial reorganization of Italian postwar reconstruction. But America's specific influence on the regeneration of the Italian textile industry has been largely passed over, despite the meteoric rise of design houses such as Max Mara, Gucci and Prada.

However, while American interest was central to the industrial and stylistic expansion of Italian fashion, the lessons learned were combined with Italian ideas and energies to create fashions with a distinctly Italian edge. This book reveals that a deliberate effort went into the development of an Italian national identity in fashion design, partially in response to American interest. Drawing on a wide range of sources, notably the testimonies of key witnesses, contemporary media reports and surviving garments, this book contributes to the scant research on twentieth century Italian dress and specifically exposes for the first time the depth of American involvement in Italian fashion in a crucial phase of its development.

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"This pioneering work analyzes the Italian fashion industry's evolution and emergence as a global force ... White insightfully reveals many interwoven components of this development ... Sixty illustrations, footnotes, and a bibliography including primary-source files of Italian designer houses provide valuable documentation." --Choice

"This short, clever book breaks new ground. It is commonly assumed that Italian fashion arises out of a peculiar national quest for beauty and an obsession with personal appearances ... It is Nicola White's central thesis that the United States contributed decisively to the growth and development of the Italian fashion industry." --Modern Italy

"This book will appeal to fashion historians, with its wealth of detail and photographs." --History

"A thought-provoking study ... through her in-depth analysis of the birth of the Italian fashion industry during the Cold War period (1945-1965) she sheds light on a very complex phase of Italian political, cultural and economic life." --Fashion Theory

"This book is a significant addition to the Berg series. Its in-depth treatment of the Italian fashion industry is a worthy read for any fashion historian." --Dress

"I found Nicola White's book fascinating... White engaged the assistance of a distinguished international group of historians, curators, private archivists, journalists, manufacturers and others concerned with the image of italian fashion, who opened personal archives, provided indispensible oral histories, and arranged invaluable introductions...[The book's] in-depth treatment of the italian fashion industry is a worthy read for any fashion historian." --Dress

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