The label “Made in Italy” has always stood for quality. How Italy became a major player on the world’s fashion stage, and made household names of stylists like Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Krizia, and Missoni, is the focus of a new television series from Taodue Film and The Family. But the eight-part production also delves into changes on other fronts, most importantly how women entering the workforce compelled designers to address their clothing needs. Fashion magazines that long survived by placating advertisers, became a force in the evolution of the industry, covering trends that often led to seismic change.
While Made in Italy manages to cover a great deal of history, the series is outrageously entertaining. Think of a combination of Sex in the City and The Devil Wears Prada. (And, yes, Caterino Carpio, playing a very young Miuccia Prada, does make an appearance.) The young Italian actress Greta Ferro is the heart and soul of the film. In real life, Ferro is a model, but in the series she plays Irene Mastrangelo, a university student finishing her degree. When a panel of sour-faced professors objects to her statements defending her thesis, she refuses to accept their mark of 50 percent and walks out. A friend hands her a flyer about an intern position at the fashion magazine, Appeal. She shows up a week too late for the interview, but since the woman who was hired has since quit, she’s given the job.
She quickly bonds with another intern, Monica Massimello, played by a fabulous Fiammetta Cicogna. (Bedding nearly every man she meets, Monica is the Samantha Jones to Ferro’s Carrie Bradshaw.) At first, Irene feels she’s been dropped into an alternate universe. Her father a factory worker from Sicily, and her mother a seamstress from Puglia, Irene is now hobnobbing with the fashion elite, something she’s only dreamed about. Her mother’s love of fashion, as well as her father’s work ethic, makes her the perfect change agent for this time at Appeal. With curiosity about everyone and everything she encounters she finds herself asking questions and obtaining interviews with reticent designers. Slipping past guards at the Krizia runway show, she’s soon interviewing the line’s founder, Mariuccia Mandelli (Stefania Rocca). Armani (Raoul Bova), whose jackets are coveted by women for their elegance and comfort, explains to Irene his design concept while pining to a live model. When Irene is sent to pick up clothes at the Missoni factory, she not only gets a tour from Ottavio (Enrico Lo Verso) and Rosita Missoni (Claudia Pandolfi), but enjoys lunch with them and the famed photographer, Richard Avedon (Wayne Maser). (All of these scenes, needless to say, will be eaten up by American fans of these fashion icons.)
Her trip to Missoni makes her late for a dinner planned for her boyfriend, Gigi, and his family. When he proposes to Irene in front of everyone, she turns him down, causing her father, Pasquale (Antonio Bruschetta) to kick her out. She moves in with Monica, while her mother, Giuseppina (Anna Ferruzzo) tries to heal the rift. Irene and Monica spend their down time partying with the magazine’s talented graphic designer, Filippo (Maurizio), who enters into a disastrous affair with a gay heroin addict.
Anyone who has ever worked at a magazine will identify with the competitive and back biting environment. Appeal’s founder and editor, Armando Frattini (Giuseppe Cederma) is facing a revolt from members of his staff who object to the changes being made. Appeal’s editor-in-chief, Rita Pasini (Margherita Buy) is revered by many in the industry, but is distracted by the activities of her son, Silvano, who is involved with the radical Red Brigade. On several occasions, she cancels interviews, leaving Irene to pick up the pieces.
In the final episode, Irene is sent to New York to put together a story on street fashion, another turning point in the industry. Designers, particularly those in New York, began to realize that the latest fashion trends were to be found not on runways, but on the sidewalks. New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham became a seminal force in this movement, capturing regular people, many times young people, eschewing norms for individual style. To stress the Italian angle, Irene chooses to showcase Fiorucci (Stefano Fregni), who brought to Italy America’s love affair with T-shirts and jeans. These scenes are jubilant, models dancing on rooftops and in Central Park to display what many once downplayed as fashion but which continues to dominate sales for so many brands.
For anyone itching to travel to Italy at a time when such trips are banned, the stunning views of Milan and the surrounding areas are breathtaking. The interior shots, filmed inside many of Milan’s historic buildings, serve as the perfect backdrop for the sumptuous fashions.
The series ends with many story lines still unresolved. Hopefully, there will be many seasons to follow.
Made in America can now be streamed on the service Topic.