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Sfilata nella Sala Bianca di Palazzo Pitti, 1955. Ph. Courtesy Archivio Foto Locchi
January 3, 2020

Fashion and Florence

A unique liaison in its kind, which contributes to the birth of international fashion

Caterina de’ Medici had not received a warm reception upon her arrival to France: she could not count on her looks and she had not brought a substantial dowry. But she had style and taste and that “go-beyond-convention” attitude that runs in Tuscans’ DNA.

Caterina brought a host of cooks with her from Florence, and that was the beginning of French cuisine. She introduced the French to the use of lingerie and perfumes, the one accessory she could not absolutely do without, for she would spend many a happy hour horse-riding.

The language of fashion quickly spread throughout Caterina’s country of adoption, but the seed had been planted in Florence and, a few centuries later, it sprouted and started to grow. To be precise, we should not speak of fashion but of prêt-à-porter, and not before the forties and the postwar period. Dressmakers started small shops with windows giving onto the street and filled with ready-to-wear clothing.

Florence, a popular destination among British and American travelers, was a fertile soil for the first buying offices to prosper and trading with big American department stores began. Florence had the means and the skill, and the innate taste for beauty that is deeply rooted in its cultural heritage. Giovanni Battista Giorgini realized it at once and would keep the wheels of fashion rolling in Florence for many years.

He saw his day of triumph on February 12, 1951, at Villa Torrigiani, his home, where the Fontana sisters, Jole Veneziani, Fabiani, Pucci, Noberasco, Carosa and Schuberth sent their creations down the runway before an audience of American buyers and journalists.

The show was a roaring success, for both Giorgini and the Italian fashion world which, through dynamism, creativity and quality, had caught up with and even surpassed the French. From 1952 to 1982, Palazzo Pitti’s Sala Bianca (White Room) was the main stage of Italian fashion and, in 1954, the Italian Center for Italian Fashion, designed to promote fashion events, was established in Florence.

However, it was still the place to go to for innovative and unconventional trends. 1972 is the year of birth of Pitti Uomo, followed by Pitti Bimbo, Pitti Filati and Pitti Casa. In the eighties, Florence hosted all major fashion trade fairs. In 1982, the Italian Center for Italian Fashion founded the so-called Centro Moda, the driving force behind the organization. In 1988, Centro Moda was transformed into Pitti Immagine. Today, Pitti Immagine plans 10 trade fairs per year, held in Florence and Milan, which attract buyers and press from all over the world. Yet, that is recent history. 

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