The relationship between Italy's textile and fashion production, 1945-1985

Savi, Lucia Floriana (2019) The relationship between Italy's textile and fashion production, 1945-1985. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis investigates Italy's transition from a country of dressmakers, tailors and small-scale couturiers in the early post-World War II period to a major producer of designer ready-to-wear fashion in the 1980s, and emphasises the role played by the Italian textile industry in this transformation. It analyses social, economic and cultural changes from Italy's first internationally-attended fashion show in 1951, organised by the impresario Giovanni Battista Giorgini , to 'Time' magazine's Giorgio Armani April 1982 cover story, which signalled not just the fashion designer's international arrival, but that of Italian ready-to-wear more broadly. My PhD is the first project to analyse how Italy's textile industry was a pivotal factor in determining a shift from the production of handmade garments to designer mass-produced clothing. The project explores the phenomenon of the post-war Italian fashion system through a new lens, examining in particular why and how Italian fashion and textile production worked together and influenced each other in developing an integrated fashion system between 1945 and 1985. My contribution is the use of a distinctive point of view considering the foundational materials of fashion, that is, textiles and their fibres. My approach, which I defined as 'inside-out', aims to assess the intrinsic material of fashion in terms of its quality, innovation in design, type (natural, artificial, man-made fibres) and production techniques, as well as to investigate the behind-the-scenes mechanisms of fashion and textile production and their impact on the country's overall fashion, textile and design output. The richness of this approach is due to the extensive archival and museum research which is bringing to light new material never been analysed before. As such, my research addresses a key gap in the histories of Italian textiles, design and fashion. While extensive scholarship has focused on defining Italian fashion style and its history, or has sought to reconstruct its relationship with the USA, existing literature has not made a direct link between Italy's textile production and the country's rapid evolution as a producer of "iconic" and high-quality ready-to-wear garments. The importance of the material employed in making Italian fashion has often been quoted as a very significant characteristic of the national aesthetic, but its impact has not yet been critically assessed. My research aims to address this gap and to contribute a new approach to object-based study by switching attention from the outside (style and composition) to the inside (materials and production), and by uniting the usually distinct studies of fashion and textile history.

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