Fashion and the Regions of Italy
If you say the words "Italian Fashion" most people probably will think first of Milan, where the annual Spring and Fall fashion collections bring a glittering international audience of buyers, journalists, models, and fashion icons. "Milan" has become a kind of shorthand for "Italian Fashion." But in fact fashion in Italy means much more than a single city or region. Because so much of Italy's fashion production -- of textiles, apparel, shoes, accessories, etc. -- takes place in small factories and craft workshops scattered around the country, all of Italy's twenty regions are involved in some way in the fashion industry. Of course some of Italy's cities and regions are more active than others, and some have fashion-related craft traditions stretching back for centuries, but fashion in Italy is a nation-wide affair.
Many of Italy's large, integrated fashion companies have their headquarters in Milan, including Armani, Ferré, Krizia, Missoni, and Prada. But if Milan is Italy's capital of fashion, Florence and Rome are not far behind, friendly rivals that are tied for second place. Like Milan, their traditions of high-quality craftsmanship, their sophisticated culture, so attractive to designers and other creative personnel, their strong commercial sector, and their access to local and national media make them strong players in Italy's fashion industry. Valentino, for example, has its headquarters in Milan but a second headquarters in Rome. Florence plays a key role as the home of Polimoda International Institute, Italy's premier educational institution for training new generations of designers and other fashion professionals. Other major cities also are important in the world of Italian fashion, including Naples (where Kiton is headquartered), Turin, and Palermo.
Turning from cities to regions, we find that a few of Italy's twenty regions play a disproportionately large role in the fashion industry. Veneto, with a long tradition of textile production (especially fine woolens and worsteds), is Italy's largest producer of shoes and garments. The region is home to hundreds of small- to medium-sized producers of textiles, apparel, and shoes, and a few large companies as well. The headquarters of the fashion giant Benetton is in Ponzano, about thirty miles west of Venice. Lombardy's connection with fashion comes not only from its capital city of Milan, but from fashion workshops in other towns and cities as well. The region has long been famous for silk production; Lombardy's scenic city of Como is renowned today for making silk ties, scarves, lingerie, and other fine products. Tuscany, likewise, is famous for its capital city of Florence, but the entire region is a center of production of leather accessories of the finest quality, as well as silk textiles and a range of apparel. Marche, in east-central Italy, is an important center of shoe production. Rome's hinterland of Lazio, and Naples' hinterland of Campania, are not heavily industrialized, but both have a substantial number of companies engaged in craft-based production of clothing, shoes, and accessories.
Other regions play a smaller role in fashion production, but not an insignificant one. Puglia, in the heel of Italy's "boot," is the home of the Filanto Group, Italy's largest footwear producer. Because Puglia also has a substantial petrochemical industry, centered in Bari and nearby cities, it is one of Italy's principal producers of synthetic fibers. Sicily builds on its ancient tradition of fine textiles to produce both textiles and garments today. Brioni, a distinguished luxury brand of clothing and accessories, has its headquarters in Penne, in the region of Abruzzo; Eremenigildo Zegna, known for its top-of-the-line menswear, is headquartered in Trivaro, Piedmont.
So it is evident that not only is the "Italian Look" a national phenomenon, but that fashion is a national industry as well.