Attractive models sauntered with graceful strides and delicate manners amongst thirty invited guests, emissaries from Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Henry Morgan’s in Montreal, Stella Hanania from I. Magnin, and the pens of international journalists such as Elisa Massai from Women's Wear Daily, Elsa Robiola from Bellezza and Vera Rosi from Novità. Background music accompanied the garments, announced one by one, with names as sophisticated as they were picturesque, capable of conjuring up dreamlike scenarios.
Not any old presentation, not a Parisian fashion show. But the first high fashion show in Italy: the foresight of a man regarded as one of the pioneers of the “Made in Italy” concept, Giovan Battista Giorgini, the splendour of a city like Florence and nine tailoring houses thereby decreed the beginning of the era of fashion shows in Italy. That fashion, high fashion, which has set a new standard around the world, casting its spell over thousands of women.
On 12 February 1951, Giovan Battista Giorgini staged the first catwalk for foreign buyers at his own home in the Oltrarno district of Florence, Villa Torrigiani.
A businessman, sophisticated collector and art lover, Giorgini understood the link between art, fashion and Italian spirit before many others, grasping the strategic importance of quality clothing for the Italian economy, which was recovering after a devastating war and realising, before the French competition, that ready-to-wear was one of key elements in the future of international fashion.
His “First Italian High Fashion Show” in 1951 was in fact the first truly effective response of the “Made in Italy” concept to the monopoly of the Parisian ateliers. Nine fashion houses and traditional Italian tailoring houses took part in the event. Simonetta, the Fontana Sisters, Fabiani, Schuberth, Marucelli, Carosa di Roma, Veneziani, Ruberasco and Vanna di Milano.
After this event on 12 February 1951, there followed other shows on a regular basis, at the Grand Hotel and then in the magnificent Sala Bianca at Palazzo Pitti. The rest is history, or rather, the present of Italian fashion.
From Vogue America to WWD, from Florence’s La Nazione to Paris-Presse, articles told of glittering hubbubs, of rarefied, dreamlike atmospheres, of unique creations that made headlines and decreed an increase in sales in the United States and Europe: for the first time, the eyes of the fashion world were focused on Italy and Florence, where Italian fashion was taking its first bold steps. A level of attention which, over time, we would see grow season after season until the present day.