Showing posts with label Fashion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fashion. Show all posts

14 January 2024

Leonardo Servadio - entrepreneur

Tailor from Perugia whose Ellesse brand found global success

The Ellesse logo came to symbolise the style and quality associated with the brand's range
The Ellesse logo came to symbolise the style and
quality associated with the brand's range 
The tailor and businessman Leonardo Servadio, who founded the Italian sportswear company Ellesse, was born on this day in 1925 in Perugia.

Ellesse - the name is taken from Servadio’s initials as they are spelled in the Italian alphabet, elle and esse - was a groundbreaker in its field, the first manufacturer to display its brand name on the outside of a garment.

Under Leonardo’s management, it grew to become one of the best known names in sportswear, particularly in the worlds of tennis and skiing, and acquired a glamorous image that enabled it to expand successfully into the leisurewear market.

Now owned by the Pentland Group, a British company with a large portfolio of sportswear brands, at its peak Ellesse sponsored tennis stars such as Chris Evert and Boris Becker, the skier Alberto Tomba and the racing driver Alain Prost, as well as the New York Cosmos football team.

Leonardo, whose parents owned a textile business in Perugia, became interested in making clothes as a young man. He learned tailoring skills at the age of 14 so that he could work in the family shop.

The brilliant Chris Evert was one of  the tennis greats signed up by Ellesse
The brilliant Chris Evert was one of 
the tennis greats signed up by Ellesse
In 1959, after 20 years working for his father, he struck out on his own, acquiring a workshop in the Pallotta suburb, before opening his first factory in Via Mario Angeloni, to the west of the city centre. Trading as L & S, his initial speciality was trousers, designed for everyday use but smartly cut. They were so popular it was not long before they became a bestselling line and Leonardo stepped up production to become the second largest trouser manufacturer in Italy.

The company grew, taking on more employees and Leonardo’s brother in law, Franco D’Attoma, who would later become president of the city’s football team, joined the company, taking charge of administrative matters to allow Leonardo to focus on design.

Setting his sights first on skiing, which had always been a passion, he produced high quality skiing trousers, to which he added a distinctive touch in the form of a penguin logo attached to the thighs, and the company name on the lower part of the leg, a marketing device that at the time was unique.

He ploughed his profits into acquiring a plot of land to the west of the city at Ellera di Corciano, where he built a modern factory and warehouse, which remains the company headquarters today. It was around this time that the Ellesse name was born and a decision was taken to sponsor the Italian national alpine skiing team, the brand’s profile receiving a massive boost when Gustav Thöni won the giant slalom world cup wearing the Ellesse name and logo.

A new type of ski garment, which was dubbed the jet pant and featured protective knee pads and a flared bottom worn outside the boot, brought the company further success before Leonardo turned his attention to his other major sporting love, tennis.

With individual and tournament sponsorship as its marketing drivers, Ellesse soon became one of the most visible names in tennis. The Italian number one male player, Corrado Barazzutti, was the first to sign a clothing contract, sporting a new logo, the now-familiar red-and-orange symbol, a semi-circle said to represent the top of a tennis ball bisected by two ski tips.

Leonardo Servadio was often seen at tennis tournaments
Leonardo Servadio was often
seen at tennis tournaments
When stars such as Wimbledon champions Chris Evert and Boris Becker joined the Ellesse stable, along with four-times Grand Slam winner Guillermo Vilas of Argentina, the brand had positioned itself as one of the world’s leading tennis wear manufacturers, further cementing its market status by sponsoring a series of international tournaments that became known as the Ellesse Women’s Circuit.

At the time Leonardo sold 90 per cent of the company’s shares to the Pentland Group in 1993, having already struck a deal with Reebok for the sale of Ellesse’s United States operations, the company had annual sales in excess of £80 billion and a workforce of more than 450 employees.

Although he retained an interest in Ellesse as company president, Leonardo devoted much of his time thereafter to projects closer to home.

He turned the large rooms with mediaeval vaults in the city centre that were once home to his father's business into the Caffè di Perugia, which became popular with local people and a great attraction for tourists, including a bar, restaurant and wine shop.

Leonardo Servadio died in Perugia in January 2012 at the age of 87.

The Fontana Maggiore at the heart of Perugia's main square, Piazza IV Novembre
The Fontana Maggiore at the heart of Perugia's
main square, Piazza IV Novembre
Travel tip:

Perugia, Leonardo Servadio’s home city and the capital of the Umbria region, is an ancient city that sits on a high hilltop midway between Rome and Florence. In Etruscan times it was one of the most powerful cities of the period.  It is also a university town with a long history, the University of Perugia having been founded in 1308.  The presence of the University for Foreigners and a number of smaller colleges gives Perugia a student population of more than 40,000.  The centre of the city, Piazza IV Novembre, has a mediaeval fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, which was sculpted by Nicolo and Giovanni Pisano.  The city’s imposing Basilica di San Domenico, built in the early 14th century also to designs by Giovanni Pisano, is the largest church in Umbria, with a distinctive 60m (197ft) bell tower and a 17th-century interior, designed by Carlo Maderno, lit by enormous stained-glass windows. The basilica contains the tomb of Pope Benedict XI, who died from poisoning in 1304.

A panorama over the skyline of Corciano, the beautiful town just outside Perugia
A panorama over the skyline of Corciano, the
beautiful town just outside Perugia
Travel tip:

Corciano, a beautiful town in Umbria of which Ellera di Corciano is a neighbouring village, can be found about 12km (7 miles) west of the city of Perugia. Surrounded by the mediaeval walls built in the 13th and 14th centuries, it is characterised by small streets and stairways and houses built in limestone and travertine, dominated by the . The village is dominated by a majestic castle, the Rocca Paolina, a monumental fortress built to a design by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger between 1540 and 1543. The town has an imposing gateway, the Porta Santa Maria, while the town's main church, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta contains an altarpiece painting of the Assumption of the Virgin by Pietro Vannucci, known as il Perugino. 

Also on this day:

1451: The birth of composer Franchino Gaffurio

1507: The birth of painter Luca Longhi

1552: The birth of lawyer Alberico Gentili

1883: The birth of fashion designer Nina Ricci

1919: The birth of politician Giulio Andreotti


22 November 2023

Beatrice Trussardi – entrepreneur

Art promoter chosen among the 100 most successful Italian women

Beatrice Trussardi has become an important promoter of art and design
Beatrice Trussardi has become an
important promoter of art and design
Art and design promoter and business woman Beatrice Trussardi, the daughter of fashion designer Nicola Trussardi, was born on this day in 1971 in Milan.

Since 1999, Beatrice has been president of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, which was founded by her father to promote contemporary art and culture.

Nicola Trussardi, who was born in Bergamo, went to work in his grandfather’s glove making business in the city and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business that helped contribute to the popularity of the Made in Italy label throughout the world.

Beatrice, who was his eldest child, obtained a degree in Art, Business and Administration at New York University and went on to work at the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.  

She directed the move by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi from its permanent exhibition space in Milan to develop a new, itinerant model. The foundation now focuses on holding art exhibitions in historical monuments and forgotten buildings in Milan, that were not previously accessible to the public.

As part of this, Palazzo Litta, Palazzo Dugnani and Palazzo Citterio have all been restored, enabling them to host major exhibitions by contemporary artists.

In 2021, Beatrice launched the Beatrice Trussardi Foundation, a nomadic art foundation, working with artistic director Massimiliano Gioni to produce and exhibit art installations in international locations. Issues such as climate change, gender inequality and talent empowerment are at the core of the foundation’s research programme.

Beatrice was CEO of her father's Trussardi Group for 11 years
Beatrice was CEO of her father's
Trussardi Group for 11 years
Beatrice became president and CEO of Trussardi Group in 2003, positions she held until 2014.

In 2007, she enrolled in the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st century programme at the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Beatrice became one of 237 people selected by the World Economic Forum to be part of its Young Global Leaders group in 2005. She joined the Women’s Leadership Board at the John F Kennedy School of Government, which was founded to promote gender equality in society and politics, in 2007. She became president of the Friends of Aspen at Aspen Institute Italia, whose aim is to analyse and discuss important economic, social and cultural issues fundamental to development.

She was appointed to the Board of Directors of Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome in 2013 by invitation of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and, in 2014, she joined the Board of Directors of Comitato Fondazioni Italiane Arte Contemporanee.

Beatrice is married to businessman Federico Roveda and the couple have two children. She was chosen by Forbes Italia as among the 100 Most Successful Italian Women in 2019.

Bergamo's Città Alta is guarded by imposing walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century
Bergamo's Città Alta is guarded by imposing
walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century
Travel tip:

Bergamo, where Trussardi’s father, Nicola, was born, is a beautiful city in Lombardy about 50km (31 miles) northeast of Milan. It has upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town - the Città Alta - has gems of mediaeval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built by the Venetians who ruled at the time. Outside the walls, the elegant Città Bassa, which grew up on the plain below, has some buildings that date back to the 15th century as well as imposing architecture added in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Città Alta is the draw for many tourists, the lower town also has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy.  The Trussardi family home, Casa Trussardi, which they acquired in 1983, sits on top of the south-facing walls overlooking Viale delle Mura, with commanding views over the Città Bassa and the vast Po Valley.

Travel tip:

Palazzo Litta, also known as Palazzo Arese-Litta, is a Baroque palace on Corso Magenta in the centre of Milan, opposite the church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore and a short distance from the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s wall painting of The Last Supper. Built between 1642 and 1648, it dates back to the period of Spanish rule of the city. The original owner was Count Bartolomeo Arese, a member of one of Milan’s most influential families of the period, who went on to become President of the Senate of Milan in 1660. The structure of the palace has changed over time, although parts of architect Francesco Maria Richini’s original design remain intact. Having become the property of the Litta family in the mid-18th century, the palace was given a facelift when Bartolomeo Bolli constructed the current façade, highly decorated with Rococò features. Apart from its exhibition spaces, the palace is home to the oldest theatre in Milan, originally Richini’s oratory and later turned into a private theatre for the use of the Arese family and guests. It is still in use as the Teatro Litta di Milano.

Also on this day:

1533: The birth of Alfonso II d’Este, last Duke of Ferrara

1710: The death of Baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini

1902: The birth of Mafia boss Joe Adonis

1911: The birth of Olympic champion cyclist Giuseppe Olmo

1947: The birth of footballer and coach Nevio Scala

1949: The birth of entrepreneur Rocco Commisso

1954: The birth of former prime minister Paolo Gentiloni


31 January 2022

Mariuccia Mandelli – fashion designer

'Godmother of Italian fashion' was immortalized by Warhol

Mariuccia Mandelli's trademark bob and red lipstick in Andy Warhol's painting
Mariuccia Mandelli's trademark bob and
red lipstick in Andy Warhol's painting 
Mariuccia Mandelli, the founder of the fashion house Krizia, was born on this day in 1925 in Bergamo in northern Italy.

Although Mandelli trained to be a primary school teacher on the advice of her mother and pursued a teaching career when she was in her twenties, she had a talent for sewing and had always been interested in fashion. It took just one lucky break to get her started.

When a friend offered her the use of a flat rent-free for six months, Mandelli went to live there, bought an old sewing machine and started making clothes. She then launched her label, Krizia - a name by which she was sometimes known - by selling the clothes from her small car, a Fiat 500. She used to drive to shops in Milan with suitcases full of samples and by 1954 had established a ready-to-wear fashion house.

Mandelli also went on to establish a popular line of men’s wear, one of the first female fashion designers to do this successfully.

In 1964, Mandelli unveiled her first black-and-white collection at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the designs for which earned her a Critica della Moda award.

The Krizia logo became famous in the 1960s and '70s
The Krizia logo became famous
in the 1960s and '70s
Her fashion house, Krizia, grew rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1971, Mandelli launched a style of shorts cut very short, which were possibly the first version of hot pants to appear. Her knitwear became instantly recognizable, featuring animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, leopards and giraffes in the designs. During the 1990s, Krizia grew into a multi-million-dollar business and Mandelli’s hairstyle and trademark red lipstick were captured in a portrait by Andy Warhol.

Mandelli stepped down from her leadership of the company in 2014 when it was sold to a Chinese corporation, Shenzhen Marisfrolg, having run Krizia for 60 years.

After Mandelli died at her home in Milan in December 2015 at the age of 90, an obituary in the Guardian newspaper called her the Godmother of Italian fashion.

The Città Alta's elevated position offers views over beautiful rolling countryside
The Città Alta's elevated position offers
views over beautiful rolling countryside
Travel tip:

Mariucccia Mandelli was born in Bergamo’s Città Alta and although she lived in Milan after launching Krizia, she remained proud of her home town and often talked about it in interviews. Bergamo is just under 60km (37 miles) to the northeast of Milan, close to the Italian lakes and alpine skiing resorts and is regarded as Lombardy’s second most important city. Bergamo is an artistic and cultural treasure chest, but also has its own natural beauty, set among hills, mountains, lakes and rolling countryside. The Città Alta is visible in the skyline from both Bergamo airport and the city’s lower town, the Città Bassa. It is an impressive fortified city in its own right, which has retained many of its 12th century buildings and also has some stunning Renaissance and Baroque architecture.  

The Palazzo Pitti became the main Florence residence of the wealthy Medici family
The Palazzo Pitti became the main Florence
residence of the wealthy Medici family
Travel tip:

Palazzo Pitti, in Florence, where Mariuccia Mandelli showed her famous black and white collection in 1964, was originally built for the banker Luca Pitti in 1457 to try to outshine the palaces owned by the Medici family. The Medici eventually bought Palazzo Pitti from Luca Pitti’s bankrupt heirs and made it their main residence in Florence in 1550. Today, visitors can look round the richly decorated rooms and see artistic treasures from the Medici collections. The beautiful Boboli Gardens behind the palace are 16th century formal Italian gardens filled with statues and fountains.

Also on this day:

1788: The death in Rome of Bonnie Prince Charlie, pretender to the British throne

1857: The birth of architect Ernesto Basile

1888: The death of Saint Don Bosco

1933: The birth of Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano

1942: The birth of actress Daniela Bianchi 


18 August 2021

Beatrice Borromeo - journalist and model

Glamorous aristocrat who specialises in gritty real-life stories

Beatrice Borromeo built a career as a hard-hitting news journalist
Beatrice Borromeo built a career as a
hard-hitting news journalist
The journalist Beatrice Borromeo, a descendant of one of Italy’s oldest aristocratic families and married to a member of the Monegasque royal family, was born on this day in 1985 in Innichen in the German-speaking province of South Tyrol in northeast Italy.

Although born into wealthy high society, Borromeo was driven by her political and humanitarian beliefs from an early age, taking part in demonstrations in Milan against the government of Silvio Berlusconi in her teenage years and deciding to pursue a career in journalism, working full time for the Italian daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

Since marrying long-time boyfriend Pierre Casiraghi - grandson of Prince Rainier III and the actress Grace Kellyand having two children, she has devoted much of her energy towards making documentary films, but always on hard-hitting topics such as climate refugees, the women of ‘Ndrangheta - the Calabrian mafia - and the slum children of Caivano, an impoverished area northeast of Naples.

Her looks and family connections have also helped her to have a parallel career in modelling, in her early days as a catwalk model for high-end fashion houses and more recently as the face of Italian jewellery house Buccellati and as the 2021 Dior ambassador.

Beatrice’s father is Carlo Ferdinando Borromeo, Count of Arona, through whom she is descended from the 16th century Archbishop of Milan, Charles (Carlo) Borromeo, a leading Catholic figure who led the movement to combat the spread of Protestantism and after his death in 1584 was made a saint.

Beatrice was in demand as a model for
Milan's top fashion houses
Her mother is Countess Donna Paola Marzotto, the daughter of fashion designer Marta Marzotto. Her uncle, Count Matteo Marzotto, is the former president and director of the Valentino fashion house.

A measure of the Borromeo family’s wealth is that they own most of the Borromean Islands in Lago Maggiore and many other estates in Lombardy and Piedmont.

Eligible and beautiful, Beatrice could have led the life of a socialite before settling into a suitable marriage but instead went on from high school to obtain a law degree at the Bocconi University in Milan before studying for a Masters in Journalism at Columbia University in New York, where she graduated in 2012.

By then she was already a working journalist, writing for Newsweek magazine and the American news website Daily Beast, contributing to TV shows including the Rai Due current affairs talk show Anno Zero and hosting her own weekly radio show.

Her journalistic scoops included an exclusive interview with Roberto Saviano, whose Mafia exposé Gomorrah had forced him to go into hiding, and, while working as a reporter for Il Fatto Quotidiano, and an interview with Marco dell’Utri, a co-founder of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, in which he admitted entering politics in the hope of obtaining immunity from arrest on various criminal charges.

She also wrote a story revealing that Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, the only son of Umberto II, the last King of Italy, had admitted in a recorded conversation that he was guilty of a murder of which he had been cleared in a Paris court.  The prince sued Borromeo’s newspaper but a court judgment ruled in favour of the newspaper.

Beatrice Borromeo with the Monaco royal Pierre Casiraghi at their wedding in 2015
Beatrice Borromeo with the Monaco royal
Pierre Casiraghi at their wedding in 2015
Her television documentary work has involved topics such as drug trafficking, underage prostitution, toxic waste dumping by the Camorra in the Naples area, and forced child marriage in the developing world.

In an interview with the magazine Glamour, Borromeo said that her interests had expanded from politics and corruption to numerous causes around the world, explaining that she was “afraid of wasting my life in doing things that help only myself.”

“I don't want to go away from this earth without having improved at least a couple of lives,” she said.

She admitted she spent much of her working life dressed in jeans and T-shirts, or a jacket and trousers if interviewing a politician face to face, yet her wedding to Casiraghi, the younger son of Caroline, Princess of Hanover, was anything but low key. 

After a civil ceremony in July, 2015, in the gardens of the Prince's Palace of Monaco, they were joined in a religious ceremony a few days later on Isola Bella, one of the Borromean Islands in Lago Maggiore.

The media coverage of the event made much of Beatrice having four bridal dresses - a pale pink, gold laced Valentino dress for the civil ceremony at the Prince’s Palace, a long-sleeved bohemian gown by Valentino at a rehearsal for the religious ceremony, an ivory-laced Armani Privé gown for the Isola Bella service itself, and an Armani Privé silk tulle gown in glistening white for the reception.

She and Casiraghi have two children - Stefano (born February 2017) and Francesco (born. May 2018).

The colossal Sancarlone statue outside Arona
The colossal Sancarlone
statue outside Arona
Travel tip:

Beatrice’s father inherited the title of Count of Arona, the town on Lago Maggiore that was the birthplace of Saint Charles Borromeo. Situated in the province of Novara on the Piedmont side of the lake, around 70km (43 miles) northwest of Milan, it is a popular destination for tourists. One of its main sights is the Sancarlone, a giant statue of Saint Charles Borromeo made from bronze. It is second in size only to the Statue of Liberty and is believed to have been looked at by the architects of the Statue of Liberty when they were producing their own design. Built on a hill overlooking the lake near the ancestral castle of the Borromeo family, it was designed by Giovan Battista Crespi and stands 23.5m (77ft) tall on a granite pedestal measuring 11.5m (38ft). A series of narrow stairs and ladders on the inside allows visitors to peer through the eyes and ears.

Isola Bella, with is elaborate palace and gardens, is an island in Lago Maggiore
Isola Bella, with is elaborate palace and
gardens, is an island in Lago Maggiore
Travel tip:

Until 1632, Isola Bella - 320m long by 400m wide - was a rocky outcrop in Lago Maggiore about 400m offshore from the town of Stresa, occupied only by a tiny fishing village. It was in that year that Carlo III of Borromeo decided it would be home to a palace dedicated to his wife, Isabella D'Adda, and commissioned the Milan architect Angelo Crivelli to build it. Carlo III did not live to see the palace finished after a devastating outbreak of the plague caused construction to be halted. It was completed instead by his sons, Gilberto III and Vitaliano VI, with the help of another Milanese architect, Carlo Fontana.  The palace, with its adjoining terraced gardens, became a place of sumptuous parties and theatrical events for the nobility of Europe.

Also on this day:

1497: The birth of lute player and composer Francesco Canova da Milano

1750: The birth of composer Antonio Salieri

1943: The birth of footballer and politician Gianni Rivera

1954: The birth of astronaut Umberto Guidoni


13 August 2021

Domenico Dolce - fashion designer

One half of hugely successful Dolce & Gabbana company

Domenico Dolce is co-founder of the Dolce & Gabbana company
Domenico Dolce is co-founder
of the Dolce & Gabbana company
The designer Domenico Dolce, whose partnership with Stefano Gabbana gave rise to one of the world’s most famous fashion houses, was born on this day in 1958 in Polizzi Generosa, a beautiful town set in the hills of northern Sicily, about 90km (56 miles) southeast of Palermo.

He and Gabbana, who he met in Milan, founded Dolce & Gabbana in 1985. The company took off in 1993 after the pop star Madonna chose them to design the costumes for a concert tour.

The company today generates about €1.3 billion in revenues and employs 5,500 people worldwide.

Dolce was born into the world of clothes. His father was a tailor and his mother worked in retail, at different times selling fabrics and lingerie.  He is said to have learned to sew at the age of six and made costumes for dolls.

After studying at art college in Palermo, Dolce moved to Milan to attend the fashion design school Istituto Marangoni. He already had dreams of working for Giorgio Armani and grew impatient to begin working in the fashion industry, dropping out of his course before completing it and taking a job in the sewing workshop of designer Giorgio Correggiari.

Domenico Dolce (right) pictured with his  partner Stefano Gabbana in 2010
Domenico Dolce (right) pictured with his 
partner Stefano Gabbana in 2010
It was at a Milan nightclub that he met Stefano Gabbana, a young man with similar ambitions. They became friends and Gabbana joined Dolce in working for Correggiari, but after three years decided to leave, first to work independently. In 1985 they began their collaboration, launching their own label, which debuted at Milano Collezioni's Nuovi Talenti show the same year, at which the pair’s designs were worn by friends because they could not afford catwalk models.

The following year, they released their first collection, displayed under the title Real Women, and in 1987 opened their first store in Milan, in Via Santa Cecilia in the city's fashion quarter. 

Dolce’s family moved to Milan to help him develop the business. It was at a factory owned by his father, Severio, at Legnano, about 20km (12 miles) northwest of Milan, that they began production of their lines. Dolce's younger brother, Alfonso, and sister, Dora, remain involved as company executives 

Madonna's Girlie Show World Tour in 1993 put Dolce & Gabbana on the map
Madonna's Girlie Show World Tour
in 1993 put Dolce & Gabbana on the map
The company expanded geographically, opening its first showroom in Manhattan, New York, in 1990, and in its product range, introducing its first perfume in 1992, but it was when Madonna picked them to design more than 1,500 costumes for her Girlie Show World Tour in 1993 that the Dolce & Gabbana name began to register as a major brand.

Soon, major stars from the entertainment industry were wanting to wear their glamorous, boldly-patterned designs, including actresses Monica Bellucci, Angelina Jolie and Isabella Rossellini and pop star and actress Kylie Minogue, whose Showgirl Homecoming tour in 2006-07 featured costumes by Dolce & Gabbana.  

Although their fashion ranges, many inspired by their love of cinema, were aimed at the high end of the market, Dolce & Gabbana realised that there was much they could do to reach popular audiences as well, and added such things as ties, belts, handbags, sunglasses, watches and footwear to their range, at more affordable prices.

By 2010, the 25th anniversary of the company’s foundation, there were 113 Dolce & Gabbana stores and 21 factory outlets.

As well as being business partners, Domenico and Stefano lived together as a couple for around 20 years, sharing a home in Milan. Although their personal relationship ended, they still work together.  

It was once reported that when the two retired, they would sell the business. More recently they announced tentative plans to pass control of the company instead to members of their extended families, several of whom already work for them and own shares.

Polizzi Generosa enjoys a spectacular location in the mountains of northeast Sicily
Polizzi Generosa enjoys a spectacular location
in the mountains of northeast Sicily
Travel tip:

Dolce’s hometown of Polizzi Generosa is built on a limestone ridge within the Madonie Natural Park in northwest Sicily. It is situated only about 25km (12 miles) inland from the coastal town of Cefalù, yet sits at more than 915m (3,000ft) above sea level.  The roots of Polizzi go back to the Byzantine area but its development came mainly under the Normans, who built the cathedral church of Saint Maria Maggiore in the 11th century. As well as its attractive churches and palaces, Polizzi Generosa offers beautiful views of the surrounding nature reserve.

The 16th century Basilica of San Magno is situated on Legnano's main square
The 16th century Basilica of San Magno is
situated on Legnano's main square
Travel tip:

Legnano - the hometown of another Italian fashion giant, Gianfranco Ferré - is famous for being the only town, apart from Rome, to which reference is made in the Italian national anthem, thanks to the historic Battle of Legnano, in which the Lombard League inflicted a heavy defeat on the forces of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1176.  Almost 700 years later, Garibaldi referred to the battle as an inspiration in the struggle for unification of Italy.  The 16th century Basilica of San Magno, where Ferré's funeral took place, is the town's most important building.

Also on this day:

1819: The birth of Republican activist Aurelio Saffi

1868: The birth of electrical engineer Camillo Olivetti

1912: The birth of microbiologist Salvador Luria


12 July 2020

Carla Fendi - fashion executive

Turned family business into global giant

Carla Fendi turned her parents' shop into a global fashion empire
Carla Fendi turned her parents' shop into
a global fashion empire
Carla Fendi, whose flair for marketing helped propel her mother and father’s small fur and leather business into a worldwide fashion giant, was born on this day in 1937 in Rome.

Under Fendi’s guidance, the business became so successful that at one point it had 215 stores worldwide and generated more than $1.2 billion in annual sales.

She also helped turn a young Paris-based German designer named Karl Lagerfeld into a household name, having taken up a friend’s recommendation to give him a try when the firm needed some fresh ideas in the 1960s.

Carla Fendi was one of five sisters who grew up in the leather workshop and fur boutique run by Edoardo and Adele Fendi in the Via del Plebiscito, near Rome’s Piazza Venezia. The family lived in rooms above the shop.

When Edoardo died in 1954, the sisters began to help the mother with the business, gradually taking on more responsibility. The business had a solid, up-market clientele for its bags and cases but Carla sensed it needed to appeal to attract younger, more fashion-conscious customers if it were to expand.

In 1964, with Carla becoming the driving force, the business opened new premises in Via Borgognona, the street that runs parallel with Via dei Condotti in the heart of Rome’s fashion district near the Spanish Steps.  The following year, needing someone to create contemporary designs, they took on Lagerfeld, who had been an apprentice to Pierre Balmain in Paris and was freelancing in Rome while he studied art history

The famous 'double F' logo, designed by Karl Lagerfeld
The famous 'double F' logo,
designed by Karl Lagerfeld
Lagerfeld largely focused on fur initially, his innovative use of mole, rabbit, and squirrel pelts in addition to the more traditional furs soon catching the eye.  Carla, meanwhile, made contacts within the film industry and it was not long before actresses Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren and Laura Antonelli were wearing Fendi furs.  Lagerfeld also came up with the brand’s trademark ‘double F’ logo.

Fendi began to grow exponentially in the late 1960s, after a fashion industry contact had helped Carla secure a window display in the prestigious Fifth Avenue store of Henri Bendel in New York. The exposure turned Fendi almost overnight into a byword for luxury in the United States, giving Carla a foothold in the world’s biggest market.

By the time Adele died in 1978, the Fendi range included scarves, ties, gloves and sunglasses in addition to bags and furs. In 1977, Lagerfeld unveiled his first ready-to-wear fashion lines.

The backlash against fur in the early 1990s posed a challenge for the company, of which Carla became chairman and president in 1994, but another piece of design genius secured Fendi’s future. This time it was not Lagerfeld but Carla’s niece, Silvia Venturini Fendi - daughter of Anna - who took the credit, designing a lightweight but capacious handbag known as the ‘baguette’.

Fendi's best-selling 'baguette' handbag, designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi
Fendi's best-selling 'baguette' handbag,
designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi
Inspired by the shape of French bread loaves and worn across the body, the baguette soon became a must-have accessory, with pop star Madonna and actress Julia Roberts among its fans.  Despite some special editions costing up to $35,000, more than a million bags were sold.

Carla and her sisters sold half of Fendi’s shares to Prada and LVMH in 1999, a deal that valued the company at $950 million. By 2002, the French luxury group LVMH had control, although Carla remained president until 2008.

Freed from day-to-day involvement in running the business, Carla focused more attention on the Carla Fendi Foundation, the charitable arm of the company, which paid for the restoration of Rome’s Trevi Fountain among other projects. An enthusiastic supporter of music and the arts, she also restored the Caio Melisso theatre in the Umbrian city of Spoleto, where she was a long-term patron of the Festival dei Due Mondi.

Married since 1960 to former pharmacist Candido Speroni, she lived in an apartment in a 16th-century palazzo in Rome. She died in 2017, having been widowed two years earlier. Her funeral took place at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Montesanto, in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo.

The couple had no children but Carla was aunt to 11 nephews and nieces, of whom Silvia remains on the board of Fendi as its creative director. Lagerfeld continued to work for the brand until his death in 2019.

Rome's Via Condotti, viewed from the city's landmark Spanish Steps
Rome's Via Condotti, viewed from the city's
landmark Spanish Steps
Travel tip:

The Via dei Condotti - known generally as Via Condotti - takes its name from the conduits that carried water to the Roman Baths of Agrippa. Beginning at the foot of the Spanish Steps, it links the Tiber with the Pincio hill. Today, it is the street which contains the greatest number of Rome-based Italian fashion retailers, equivalent to Milan's Via Montenapoleone, Paris's Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Florence's Via de' Tornabuoni or London's Bond Street.  The street is also famous for the historic Antico Caffè Greco, which opened in 1760. Once the haunt of literary and musical figures such as Stendhal, Goethe, Byron, Liszt and Keats, it is the oldest bar in Rome and second oldest in Italy, after Caffè Florian in Venice.

The colossal monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy, dominates Piazza Venezia
The colossal monument to Victor Emmanuel II,
the first king of Italy, dominates Piazza Venezia
Travel tip

The Piazza Venezia, close to where Carla Fendi and her sisters grew up,  is dominated by the vast Altare della Patria, otherwise known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and sometimes 'the wedding cake' or Il Vittoriano, a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It features Corinthian columns, fountains, an equestrian sculpture of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas. Including the winged victories, it touches 81 metres (266 feet) tall. The base of the structure houses a small museum of Italian Unification.

Also on this day:

12 June 2020

Edda “Edy” Campagnoli - model, TV star and businesswoman

Glamorous blonde who married top footballer

Edy Campagnoli, pictured with her husband, footballer Lorenzo Buffon
Edy Campagnoli, pictured with her
husband, footballer Lorenzo Buffon
The model, television star and later businesswoman Edda “Edy” Campagnoli was born on this day in 1934 in Milan.

Campagnoli was a famous face in Italy in the 1950s. She became a celebrity as the glamorous assistant of popular presenter Mike Bongiorno on a prime time quiz show, and then married the AC Milan and Italy goalkeeper Lorenzo Buffon.

For a while, she and Buffon - a cousin of the grandfather of another famous Italian goalkeeper, World Cup-winner Gianluigi Buffon - were one of Italy’s most high-profile couples.

Campagnoli, blonde with blue eyes and a curvaceous figure, first attracted attention as a catwalk model in the city of her birth and it would be her looks that provided a passport to stardom. In 1954, the director Luchino Visconti decided she would be the perfect Venus in his interpretation of Gaspare Spontini’s opera La vestale, giving her the rare distinction of appearing on stage at Milan's great opera house, Teatro alla Scala, alongside the superstar soprano Maria Callas. She was not required to sing.

A year later, she made her television debut in an afternoon show on the fledgling Rai network, where she was quickly spotted by the producers of Lascia o raddoppia?, a new quiz show based on the American hit The $64,000 Question.

Campagnoli, with host Mike Bongiorno (left) and  guest - the comedian Totò - in Lascia o radoppio?
Campagnoli, with host Mike Bongiorno (left) and
guest - the comedian Totò - in Lascia o radoppio?
Lascia o raddoppia? (English translation: Double or Quits?) was the vehicle that propelled Bongiorno to fame, effectively launching a career that would see his face become as recognisable to Italians as the Pope.

Campagnoli’s role was to lead the quiz show’s contestants on to the stage and introduce them to the host before standing to one side. Her presence was essentially decorative, as she was told bluntly by Bongiorno on the first night of transmission, when nervously she asked to run through what she would be doing and was told to “just be a beautiful girl”. The press dubbed her la valletta muta - the mute valet.

Her relationship with Bongiorno was often difficult. He was not a tall man and in high heels she towered above him. In an interview many years after she left the show, Campagnoli said that he ordered her to wear flat shoes and would refuse to be photographed with her if she was in heels.

Nonetheless, the huge success of the show turned Campagnoli into a celebrity, her appearances alongside Bongiorno in publicity events drawing massive crowds.  It also made her wealthy. Although the 25,000-lire fee she was paid for each edition was a fraction of the amount Bongiorno received, it still made her the highest-paid woman in Italian television.

Edy Campagnoli left television to open a boutique in Milan's famous fashion quarter
Edy Campagnoli left television to open a
boutique in Milan's famous fashion quarter
Her fame also opened the door to a number of movie parts and frequent lucrative appearances in the popular fotoromanza magazines, which featured fictional romance stories in photo strip format. The press called her “the most famous woman in Italy”.

Her real-life romance with Buffon, who made around 300 appearances for an AC Milan side that dominated Italian football in the ‘50s, was a sensation, lapped up by the popular press, not least because she had previously been involved with Giorgio Ghezzi, the goalkeeper at AC Milan’s city rivals, Inter.

They married in 1958, the wedding eagerly covered by Italy’s popular gossip magazines and which drew a crowd of 2,000 people, waiting for a glimpse of her wedding dress despite pouring rain.  For a while, they were the most photographed couple in Italy and could not venture out without being mobbed. They had a daughter, Patricia, but were divorced after 10 years, even though they remained friends.

When Lascia o raddoppia? reached the end of its run in 1959, Campagnoli appeared in a number of other TV shows but quit showbusiness in the mid-1960s to return to the world of clothes, opening a boutique in Via della Spiga, a short distance from Via Monte Napoleone in the heart of Milan’s celebrated fashion quarter.

She was reunited with Bongiorno briefly in 1971, making a guest appearance in another of his hit shows, but for the most part devoted herself to building a successful business. Designs bearing her name sold all over the world and fashion remained her focus until the early 1990s, when her health began to decline.

Campagnoli died at her home in Corso Venezia in January 1995 at the age of 60, having suffered a stroke. Her funeral took place at the church of San Babila.

Via Monte Napoleone is the most famous street in Milan's Quadrilatero della Moda
Via Monte Napoleone is the most famous street in
Milan's Quadrilatero della Moda
Travel tip:

Milan’s fashion district is known as the Quadrilatero della Moda, sometimes the Quad d’Oro. It can be found a 10-minute walk away from the Duomo in the centre of the city. The area centres on Via Monte Napoleone, a long street is lined with designer fashion boutiques, antiques shops and neoclassical mansions. Most of the major fashion houses - such as Armani, Gucci, Hermès, La Perla, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Versace - Nearby, the Palazzo Morando museum displays period costumes.

Corso Venezia, with the Art Nouveau palace Palazzo  Castiglioni in the centre, third building from the right
Corso Venezia, with the Art Nouveau palace Palazzo
Castiglioni in the centre, third building from the right
Travel tip:

Corso Venezia is one of the Milan’s most exclusive and elegant avenues, itself forming part of the Quadrilatero della moda shopping district, stretching from the church of San Babila to Porta Venezia, one of the city’s historical gates. It is lined with Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical palaces, parks and gardens, including the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, which contains both the Neoclassical Villa Reale and the city’s Natural History Museum.

Also on this day:

1675: The death of Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy

1885: The birth of mafioso Nick Gentile

1922: The birth of astrophysicist and TV personality Margherita Hack


9 September 2019

Francesco Carrozzini - director and photographer

Famous for portraits of wealthy and famous

Francesco Carrozzini has photographed many celebrities from the world of movies, music and the arts
Francesco Carrozzini has photographed many celebrities
from the world of movies, music and the arts
The American-based director and photographer Francesco Carrozzini was born on this day in 1982 in Monza, Italy.

The son of the late former editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of Vogue magazine, Franca Sozzani, Carrozzini has directed many music videos and documentary films and a small number of feature-length movies, including one about the life of his mother.

In photography, he has become best known for his portraits of the rich and famous, including actors such as Robert De Niro and Cate Blanchett, models including Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, musicians such as Lana Del Ray and Kanye West, and artists including Jeff Koons and Andres Serrano.

Carrozzini has also photographed a number of political leaders, including the former British prime minister Tony Blair, ex-Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

He is a founder of the Franca Sozzani Fund for Preventive Genomics, which he helped create following the death of his mother at the age of 66 from a rare form of cancer.

Carrozzini's mother was the fashion magazine editor Franca Sozzani
Carrozzini's mother was the fashion
magazine editor Franca Sozzani
Franca Sozzani’s prominence in the fashion and magazine industry meant that Carrozzini grew up in a house he described as being filled with creative energy. Sozzani gave her photographers a level of creative freedom that at the time was almost unique to Vogue Italia and, influenced by their work, Carrozzini began taking pictures and making short films in his early teens.

In 1999, he moved to the United States to study film at the University of California in Los Angeles before returning to Italy to study philosophy at the University of Milan. 

He embarked on his first commercial assignment, directing a 30-second video promoting Italian MTV, at the age of 19.

Indeed, film became his preoccupation from his early 20s, when his work ranged from a promotional film for the Venice Biennale and a documentary about a Polish theatre group to a short thriller set in New York’s reputedly haunted Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street.

Soon, he became sought after by commercial clients such as Apple Music, Fiat, Tommy Hilfiger and Ray Ban, and musicians such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Lenny Kravitz, for whom he directed music videos.  He has been based in New York since 2004.

Carrozzini began working on his film about his mother in 2010. The project was a documentary focusing on her life and legacy, highlighting the accomplishments of Sozzani's career while also exploring his relationship with her.

Carrozzini's portrait of the actor Robert De Niro
Carrozzini's portrait of the actor Robert De Niro
The film, entitled Franca: Chaos and Creation, took him around six years to finish. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in September 2016, just three months before she died, following a long period undergoing treatment for her cancer.

In March 2017, the film was honored with a Nastro d'Argento presented by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.

After his mother’s death, from a form of cancer that might have been prevented with earlier medical surveillance, Corrazzini joined Harvard geneticist Robert C Green and private investors in launching the Franca Sozzani Fund for Preventive Genomics in the hope of improving the reach of preventive genomics, which uses genetic sequencing to predict disease.

Carrozzini is married to Bee Shaffer, the daughter of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and child psychiatrist David Shaffer.

The grand Villa Reale in Monza, built in the late 18th  century for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria
The grand Villa Reale in Monza, built in the late 18th
century for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria
Travel tip:

Monza, a city of just under 125,000 inhabitants about 20km (12 miles) northeast of Milan, is best known for its international motor racing circuit, the home of the Formula One Italian Grand Prix. Yet the city itself is well worth visiting in its own right, one of the highlights being the 13th century Basilica of San Giovanni Battista, often known as Monza Cathedral, which contains the famous Corona Ferrea or Iron Crown, bearing precious stones.  According to tradition, the crown was found on Jesus's Cross.  Note also the Villa Reale, built in the neoclassical style by Giuseppe Piermarini at the end of the 18th Century, which has a sumptuous interior and a court theatre.

Part of the ceiling of the Camera degli Sposa in Mantua's Palazzo Ducale, decorated by Andrea Mantegna
Part of the ceiling of the Camera degli Sposa in Mantua's
Palazzo Ducale, decorated by Andrea Mantegna
Travel tip:

Carrozzini’s mother, Franca Sozzani, came from Mantua, an atmospheric old city in Lombardy, about 180km (112 miles) to the southeast of Milan, surrounded on three sides by a broad stretch of the Mincio river, which has always limited its growth, making it an easy place for tourists to look round. At the Renaissance heart of the city is Piazza Mantegna, where the 15th century Basilica of Sant’Andrea houses the tomb of the artist, Andrea Mantegna.  Mantua’s Palazzo Ducale, the seat of the Gonzaga family between 1328 and 1707, contains some of the finest examples of Mantegna’s frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi.

More reading:

How Franca Sozzani changed the world of fashion publishing

Mimmo Jodice: Photography meets metaphysical art

The girl who inherited the Versace fashion empire

Also on this day:

1908: The birth of writer and translator Cesare Pavese

1918: The birth of Italy's ninth president, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro

1943: Allied troops land at Salerno on the Italian mainland


27 February 2019

Franco Moschino - fashion designer

Made clothes with sense of humour

Moschino was famous for his outlandish designs, poking fun  at aspects of the fashion world he considered too serious
Moschino was famous for his outlandish designs, poking fun
at aspects of the fashion world he considered too serious
The fashion designer Franco Moschino, founder of the Moschino fashion label, was born on this day in 1950 in Abbiategrasso, a town about 24km (15 miles) southwest of Milan.

Moschino became famous for his innovative and irreverent designs, which injected humour into high fashion.

For example, he created a miniskirt in quilted denim with plastic fried eggs decorating the hemline, a jacket studded with bottle tops and a suit covered with cutlery. He designed a dress that resembled a shopping bag and a ball gown made from black plastic bin bags.

Other designs carried messages mocking his own industry, such as a jacket with the motif ‘Waist of Money’ printed round the waistband, another in cashmere with ‘Expensive Jacket’ emblazoned across the back and a shirt with the words ‘I’m Full of Shirt’.

A Moschino blouse styled to look like a dart board
A Moschino blouse styled to look
like a dart board
Moschino’s first collections focussed on casual clothes and jeans, but he eventually branched out into lingerie, eveningwear, shoes, menswear and perfumes.

As a young man, Moschino was encouraged to believe that his destiny lay in taking over his father’s iron foundry but his only interest in the plant lay in the layers of dust that clung to the walls, in which he would make drawings.

He wanted to be a painter and at the age of 18 ran away to Milan and enrolled himself at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera and the Istituto Marangoni school of design.

To finance his studies, he worked as a freelance fashion illustrator for fashion houses and magazines. This led to him becoming an illustrator for Gianni Versace, for whom he worked for six years.

Moschino began designing in his own right for the Italian label Cadette in 1977. He founded his own company, Moonshadow, in 1983, and soon built annual revenues in excess of £150 million.  He launched the Moschino Couture! label the same year.

His designs, which were inspired by the Surrealist movement of the 1920s, found acceptance among pop stars such as Madonna, Tina Turner, and Yoko Ono and two high-profile royal fashion icons in Princess Caroline of Monaco and Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Moschino logo adorns more than 150 boutiques across the world, with its headquarters in Milan
The Moschino logo adorns more than 150 boutiques
across the world, with its headquarters in Milan
Moschino died young, after suffering a heart attack in September 1994 at his villa at Annone di Brianza, overlooking Lake Annone, south of Lake Como. He had undergone surgery a short time previously to remove an abdominal tumour.

It came to light after his death that Moschino, who had raised money to build hospices for children with Aids, had himself contracted the disease. Moschino is buried in his family's plot at Cimitero Monumentale di Milano in Milan.

After his death, the Moschino brand was continued first under the guidance of his former assistant Rossella Jardini, and then by the American designer Jeremy Scott.

In more recent years, Moschino has designed the outfits for the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, for Kylie Minogue's 2005 Showgirl - The Greatest Hits Tour, for Madonna's 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour and six outfits for Lady Gaga for her Born This Way Ball in 2011-2012.

The fashion house has more than 150 boutiques worldwide. Its flagship store is in Via Sant’Andrea in Milan, which bisects the famous ‘fashion street’, the Via Monte Napoleone.

Lago di Annone, where Moschino had a villa, is notable for being in two sections, divided by a peninsula
Lago di Annone, where Moschino had a villa, is notable
for being in two sections, divided by a peninsula
Travel tip:

Lago di Annone falls into the area known as Brianza, bordered by the lakeside towns of Como and Lecco and the city of Monza.  It is an area rich in hills and beautiful landscapes, parks and nature reserves that has down the centuries attracted many painters and writers. The main characteristic of Lago di Annone is that it has two sections, divided by a peninsula - the Isella peninsula - with the sections linked by a narrow canal which was once spanned by a Roman bridge carrying a road between Lecco and Como. The lake lies at the foot of Monte Cornizzolo and Monte Barro, two peaks offering marvellous views to those prepared to climb. Less challenging is a footpath around the perimeter of the lake.

Hotels in Annone di Brianza from

The Visconti Castle, built in the 14th century, is one of the  architectural highlights of Abbiategrasso
The Visconti Castle, built in the 14th century, is one of the
architectural highlights of Abbiategrasso
Travel tip:

Moschino’s home town of Abbiategrasso prides itself on being part of the Cittaslow project - an offshoot of the Slow Food Movement - which comprises more than 140 towns around the world of 50,000 or fewer inhabitants, promoting a relaxed pace of life and and ‘an identity and community spirit in the face of the modern world’. Part of its slow living involves closing off the town centre to cars during the weekend, with citizens encouraged to use bicycles. The town is also home to the Visconti Castle, built in 1382 by Gian Galeazzo Visconti and enlarged and decorated by Filippo Maria Visconti after 1438. The nearby Basilica church of Santa Maria Nuova was built in 1388 to celebrate the birth of Gian Galeazzo Visconti's son. Abbiategrasso is also the home town of Giuseppina Tuissa, one of the partisans who captured Mussolini as he tried to flee to Switzerland in 1945.

Stay in Abbiategrasso with

More reading:

The meteoric rise of Gianni Versace

Roberto Capucci, the 'sculptor in cloth'

Giuseppina Tuissa's role in the capture of Mussolini

Also on 27 February:

1935: The birth of opera singer Mirella Freni

1964: Italy appeals for help to save the Leaning Tower of Pisa