On Wednesday, I
went to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the preview of their new exhibition:
The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014,
from 5th April – 27th July 2014, sponsored
by the Italian jewellers, Bulgari, with added support from Nespresso.
Prada 2012 Flame shoes
feeling frazzled by the London rush hour and desperate for a cup of
coffee. Fortunately, outside the exhibition, Nespresso was offering us some. I
know it’s not cool, but I don’t like my coffee strong so I asked, diffidently,
for a mild cappuccino. He looked at me through narrowed eyes for a moment and
then said, ‘Brazilian coffee. It’s very smooth. You’ll like it.’
I did. It was
delicious! I made a mental note that, in future, Brazilian coffee will be my
coffee of choice.
André Lang coat 1960s
Rejuvenated, I went
into the exhibition. My first thought was that I was in heaven; the clothes,
shoes, handbags etc. were wonderful and, what’s more, they were raised up and
properly spaced out so that you could see them properly. The lighting was just
right, the signage was excellent and, on the walls above the exhibits, film
clips and fashion photos added to the dolce
vita ambience. The credit for all this must go to the curator, Sonnet
Stanfill, who, in my view, has done a brilliant job.
Sorelle Fontana evening dress
photographed, particularly from the 50s and 60s, look like real young women
with proper curves. They obviously enjoy life. You suspect that, for two pins,
they’d hitch up their skirts, hop on the back of a Vespa driven by a sexy
Italian wearing an impeccably-tailored suit, and zoom off. They are
refreshingly different from our sulky, stick-thin 21st century models.
Vespa 125, 1949
enjoyed the 50s and 60s rooms. The pièce
de résistance is undoubtedly the fabulous Bulgari emerald and diamond
necklace set that Richard Burton bought for Elizabeth Taylor. It’s rarely
exhibited, so it is great to have a chance to see it.
Bulgari emerald, diamond and
This was the era
when Hollywood came to Rome and Cinecitta to shoot films like Roman Holiday and all the big names are
here. I loved Audrey Hepburn’s Empire-line ball dress by Gattinoni (1955) from War and Peace, now, alas, rather faded. And
there are superb examples, like Gianfranco Ferré’s elegant evening dress, or
André Lang’s superbly-tailored coat, both from the 1960s, which demonstrate
Italian technical expertise and flair.
Gianfranco Ferré Evening dress
also has plenty examples from modern designers. You can admire Dolce and Gabbana’s
dramatic, glittery 2001 ankle boots, or Prada’s 2008 flower-heeled shoes, for
example. The last room is devoted to up and coming designers who have something
new and exciting to offer.
Glittery boots, Dolce &
Above all, I
just loved the elegant design and attention to detail of all the items on
display; shoes and handbags as well as the clothes. There’s something immensely
satisfying about seeing clothes by designers who are absolutely at the top of
their game. The Italians can do anything, I decided; be it with leather, wool,
silk, beads or embroidery.
Prada flower-heeled shoes 2008
spending several hours in an exhibition, I reel out in a state of cultural
exhaustion. This time, I left feeling energized. This exhibition is a real
tonic. If you feel in want of a little glamour in your life – and who doesn’t?
– get to the V & A. You won’t be disappointed.
Photos taken by
Elizabeth Hawksley by kind permission of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Labels: Bulgari, Elizabeth Hawksley, Nespresso, Victoria & Albert Museum, www.vam.ac.uk/italianfashion