Milan Fashion Scene

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A northern, industrial Italian city with little of the allure of Rome or Florence, Italy, Milan was home to a number of ambitious textile producers and clothing designers. In the late 1970s they began staging fashion shows in Milan to promote Italian designers. Representatives from upscale American department stores began flocking to the city to place large orders from the collections of up-and-coming new talents like Giorgio Armani (c. 1934), Laura Biagiotti (1943), Gianfranco Ferre (1944), and Gianni Versace (19461997). Foreign journalists admired the new Italian styles as well.

Milan's runways presented a new style that caught on everywhere: though its shows were sometimes a bit theatrical and over-the-top, the models exuded a modern, athletic silhouette, or shape, that fit in perfectly with the era. The clothes, however, were the real appeal: they were simple, sexy, well made from an array of luxurious fabrics, and sold well. Within ten years of launching his company in 1975 with a man-tailored suit that became a must-have for an entire generation of fashionable women, Armani proved Milan's biggest success. For many years Armani's main rival was Ferre, and later Versace. Other top names in the Milan scene were Biagiotti, the Krizia label, and Missoni; the Fendi family of Rome even began staging their runway shows in Milan.

In the 1980s the Milan shows grew more extravagant and Armani was often hailed as the king of Milan. In the 1990s new names joined the roster of shows held at two hotels near one another, the Principe and the Palace, including Dolce and Gabbana, Pradaa venerable luggage firm reshaped by the founder's design-conscious heir, Miuccia Pradaand the once-scorned house of Gucci, revitalized by American designer Tom Ford.