Italian Style showcased at Somerset House

On a warm summer evening (one of the few) I was invited to preview a collection of works from the Masters of Italian Style. Leading fashion figure Colin McDowell has curated a selection of prints offered from six Italian designers archives that they feel represent the history, influences and design of their work.

All are extremely well known for their own unique looks. From Missoni knits, with a very family orientated company to Gucci's effortless elegance, back to the Godfather of tailoring at Giorgio Armani.

Photographer: Aldo Fallai Giorgio Armani S/S 1990

“In the late seventies and early eighties, I pioneered the idea of soft, unstructured and body-conscious tailoring for both men and women. It is arguably what brought me to the attention of the world as, for the first time, you could wear tailored clothes and look and feel relaxed. This image, by Aldo Fallai, is of a typical Armani menswear outfit of the time – easy, simple, sensual and modern, and not in any way outlandish or over-done from a fashion perspective. The shot itself is as casual as the outfit – like a caught moment. It suggests that men in Armani feel totally at ease and unselfconscious.” Giorgio Armani

Photographer: Aldo Fallai Salvatore Ferragamo A/W 1994-95

The Italian Renaissance is ever present in Italian art and fashion. This Ferragamo scarf has the intense colours and richness of the ceiling in a boric church and the ancestral flag of a noble family. Yet it still has the ability to be modern, wearable and exceedingly flattering. Colin McDowell

Photographer: Lance Stadler Gucci S/S 1991

“One of the inspirations for the Aquariva by Gucci boat. As part of the celebrations for Gucci’s 90th year, I have worked with Riva on designing the “Aquariva by Gucci” boat. This picture was inspirational for me as I wanted the Aquariva by Gucci to celebrate the era of La Dolce Vita, when glamour and elegance defined an attitude and a lifestyle.” Frida Giannini

The Aquariva by Gucci boat is in itself an inspiration for the revival of 50s glamour. Gucci headscarf and sunglasses were for all sun-seekers, as they are now, a starting point for the sophisticated life. Colin McDowell

The above are just a sneak preview to the rest of the exhibition and had I had the time I would have stayed far longer, sipping my Peroni, naturally, and imagining that I was back in the era when fashion was incredibly pioneering. If, like me, you have a love of image as well as fashion, this collection is well worth the visit. I am going back as I don't feel I managed to take in all that was offered.

The space was so busy, and deservedly so, with press chasing Colin around for interviews as he personally took people through the selections and watching all the videos from the vaults.