When it comes to designer fashion, Italy is pretty much the center of the sartorial universe. And if you’re like us, anything stamped “Made in Italy” makes your heart race a little faster—especially when there’s a Gucci, Pucci or Fiorucci in front of it.
The French may have their Haute Couture—which we already schooled you on in The Paris Issue—but the Italians have truly mastered the art of dressing well. And it’s no wonder since Italy is home to some of the most important and iconic fashion houses in the world. So we couldn’t take you all the way to Florence this month without a little lesson on Moda Italiana.
The one thing Gina and I never disagree on is investing in your sense of style and the way you present yourself as a successful woman entrepreneur. And while that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on designer fashions to look your best, we are never mad at the purchase of a fabulous statement piece or two—especially when you’re strolling the cobblestone streets of Florence surrounded by the best names in Italian luxury.
And speaking of names, we’ve pulled together 10 of our favorites to help you learn Italian the way we know best. We also threw in a few of our favorite Italian shoe brands because, Hello? Have you met us?
From the iconic Baguette to the classic Peekaboo, any Fendi bag carries with it nearly a century of refinement and craftsmanship. The brand was born in Rome in 1925, when Adele and Edoardo Fendi opened their first leather goods and fur workshop and became an instant hit among the city’s elite. Taking things to the next level, Adele introduced the Fendi “Selleria,” a range of totally handmade bags crafted with the finest Roman leather. When the Fendis’ five daughters entered the biz in the late 40s, they soon brought in none-other than a young Karl Lagerfeld to lead the brand into the future. And even after all these years they’ve kept the Selleria tradition alive, allowing you to get your very own Peekaboo tote made to order by master Italian artisans.
Visit their website at: fendi.com
When it comes to swimwear, cover-ups, and even home goods, Gina turns to Missoni and their iconic zig-zag prints. The house is known for its luxury sportswear, which is fitting since Rosita and Ottavio Missoni met at the Olympics in London in the 40s. Ottavio was not only a runner, he also designed the team uniforms. The pair got married, opened a small workshop, and in 1954 presented their very first collection in Milan. The Missoni name became synonymous with colorful statement-making knits, which felt right at home in the bohemian 60s and 70s, and with influential fans like Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland to back them up, there was no stopping their rise to global dominance in the Italian fashion arena. Today Missoni is one of the most exclusive lifestyle labels to come out of Italy.
Visit their website at: missoni.com
You might say Gucci is Italy’s most prestigious and oldest luxury brand. Like Hermès in Paris, it has its roots in fine luggage and equestrian culture, and has long stood for a certain aristocratic elegance. However Guccio Gucci himself was not an aristocrat. Born in Florence in 1881, he was inspired to go into the luggage business after working in high-end hotels in Paris and London. Gucci returned to Florence with a plan to employ Tuscan artisans to create luxury trunks worthy of checking-in to the Ritz or the Savoy, opening his first shop in 1921. Today we can credit Gucci with coining such timeless design statements as the bar-and-bit buckle and the bamboo-handled bag. And as for the Jackie Kennedy bag? It doesn’t get much more iconic than that.
Visit their website at: gucci.com
Versace is the bad-boy of Italian fashion. The sexy Italian label has always exuded a flamboyant edge that stops traffic on runways and red carpets everywhere—remember J.Lo’s plunging green printed gown from the 2000 Grammys? The House of Versace owes its outrageous opulence to its late founder Gianni Versace, who grew up in Southern Italy. Versace created a look that defined 90s fashion and the era of the supermodel. Today, Donatella sits at the throne, and is lauded for carrying on her brother’s vision while adding her own fresh take to modernize the brand. And while you may not see Gina stepping out in a daring Versace gown, she does love their bold jewelry and home collections. Think chunky gold baubles and eccentric Italian prints that make a lavish statement.
Visit their website at: versace.com
Dolce e Gabbana epitomizes feminine Italian style coupled with expert tailoring. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana founded their namesake line in 1985 after working as design consultants in Milan. Inspired by Italian cinema and a dash of English eccentricity, the duo design for the kind of strong and sexy woman who rocks form-fitting print dresses as easily as chic pinstripe suits, all with a fab leopard stiletto, of course. Gina is a big fan of their blazers and suits, which are perfectly cut for her Sicilian curves.
Visit their website at: dolceegabbana.com
Some of the most iconic moments in fashion history have involved a gown designed by Valentino Garavani. Modeled after the Paris Haute Couture houses, Valentino founded his atelier in Rome in 1959, and by the mid-60s he was already dressing many of the world’s most stylish women like Jacqueline Onassis. Maison Valentino is one of the few Haute Couture houses that reside outside of Paris, and although Garavani retired in 2007, the label he founded almost 60 years ago is still coveted by celebrities, It Girls and the global fashion elite. Under the supervision of new Creative Directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the Valentino label has soared to new heights. Their Rockstud shoes and bags have become a bonafide phenomenon, and happen to be some of Gina’s most-loved accessories from the brand.
Visit their website at: valentino.com
Salvatore Ferragamo is the ultimate name in Italian footwear, and with good reason. The Florentine cobbler began his rise to fame in Hollywood in the 1920s. He opened a custom, made-to-measure shoe shop and quickly amassed a star-studded clientele. And he didn’t stop there. Ferragamo was so dedicated to his craft that he went to study anatomy at USC with a mind to make the most comfortable shoes possible. After closing his LA shop and returning to Italy he founded the Ferragamo label. A tireless innovator, by 1957 he held more than 350 patents for shoe design—including the wedge and the cage heel. You’ll usually find a pair or two of Ferragamo boots in Gina’s fall/winter rotation, not to mention some gorgeous wool coats and ponchos.
Visit their website at: ferragamo.com
From silk gowns and blouses to fabulous beach towels, Gina adores a whimsical 60s inspired Pucci print. Like Missoni, Emilio Pucci also got his start designing sportswear. Born in Florence in 1914 to one of the oldest noble families, he loved swimming, fencing, tennis, and car racing. While getting his masters at Reed College in Oregon, Pucci designed uniforms for the school’s ski team. Years later, while skiing in the Alps, a friend was spotted by a Harper’s Bazaar Editor wearing one of Pucci’s custom ski get-ups, and the rest is fashion history. Pucci’s sleek, stretchy looks in colorful pop prints quickly became an international sensation. Pucci moved into luxury swimwear and opened his first Haute Couture house on the Isle of Capri. Today Pucci has evolved beyond simple sportswear and chic accessories, into one of Italy’s most coveted fashion labels. Under the house’s newest Creative Director, Massimo Giorgetti, the next evolution of Pucci is sure to excite.
Visit their website at: emiliopucci.com
Many Italian designers tend to have an ultra-feminine flair to their work, and that is definitely true of Ermanno Scervino. Throw on any of his flattering and form-fitting looks, and you instantly transform into a sultry Italian diva. No wonder Kim Kardashian West is a fan—Scervino even hosted her wedding at the Forte Belvedere in Florence. Gina has been wearing Scervino for years now, slowly adding the designer’s unique pieces to her wardrobe whenever she travels to Italy. Her arsenal includes some fabulous jumpsuits, chic tops, elegant lace pieces, and even some pretty unstoppable leather pants. Speaking of leather, you may remember Sandra Bullock’s sleek Ermanno Scervino laser-cut leather dress from the red carpet a couple years back? So gorgeous. And though the label is not yet available in the US, Scervino is well known and loved in Italy and beyond. So next time you’re in the hood, be sure to stop by one of his boutiques and do some serious shopping.
Visit their website at: ermannoscervino.it
If you’ve been following Divine Living Magazine, then you’ve definitely seen Gina in a Cavalli get-up…or twelve. Few designers do drama and glamour better than Roberto, and Gina just can’t get enough. It’s no surprise that many of her favorite Divas (ahem, J.Lo) are also fans, as a Cavalli gown always makes an unforgettable statement on the red carpet. The Florentine designer opened his first boutique in St. Tropez in 1972, perhaps the perfect setting for his haute-bohemian aesthetic. He was immediately renowned for his groundbreaking use of leather, and for the cutting-edge manufacturing behind his exotic, romantic prints, which have become the foundation for his lifestyle empire.
Visit their website at: robertocavalli.com
Visit their website at: aquazzura.com
Aquazurra is THE it shoe label of the moment. The Florence-based brand has quickly amassed a devoted following among the fashion set for their sexy laced-up designs that will get you noticed for all the right reasons, plus they’re made with all the craftsmanship you’d expect from the Italian masters.
Visit their website at: sergiorossi.com
Sergio Rossi has been a go-to for me for well over a decade. The label makes beautiful basics with a twist as well as some seriously sexy pumps, evening shoes and boots.
Visit their website at: giuseppezanottidesign.com
Giuseppe Zanotti’s shoes have always had a rock-star appeal, with extravagant, over-the-top designs that make a major statement. Not for the faint of heart, this luxe Italian label does sky-high style like a boss.
Visit their website at: gianvitorossi.com
Gianvito Rossi got his start making shoes that were quietly gorgeous, specializing in clean, simple, and chic with a twist. Lately his design aesthetic has been evolving, becoming more of-the-moment without compromising comfort or craftsmanship.