Anna Dello Russo, Giovanna Battaglia , and Chiara Ferragni are among some of the most photographed beacons of Italian style today, but the country has a history of producing chic tastemakers. Perhaps it has something to do with Italy’s decadent history of supporting art and luxury fashion. After all, Gucci, Ferragamo, and Fendi—some of the top Italian fashion houses in the world—were all founded before the 1930s and have managed to still remain as top influencers in the design world.
On the streets of Milan and Rome, the women who walk by in furs, gorgeous leathers and detailed accessories often look like they came straight out of a fashion magazine. And in New York, a new breed of young Italian women who work in design, consulting, and art is taking over the street-style scene with their eccentric looks, ranging from extravagant sunnies to vintage picks from around the world.
Italy’s amazing film culture has also shaped the country’s top-tier style icons, with stars like Sophia Loren, Monica Bellucci, and Monica Vitti becoming major influencers for their looks globally, on-screen and off. Who could forget Loren’s dramatic cat eye? It’s a look we still live by today.
So, in honor of Milan Fashion Week, which begins today, click through to see a guide of Italian fashion icons past and present.
Anna Dello Russo: The editor at large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan was born in Bari and now lives in Milan. She is possibly one of the most photographed women of Fashion Month, with her over-the-top outfits often worn from runway collections that aren't available to the public yet. She has a no-rules approach to style and has sported everything from ball gowns during the day to three handbags at once.
Anna Piaggi: Italian fashion writer Anna Piaggi was known to have a wardrobe that rivaled some of the best fashion museums in the world—and spanned more than 200 years' worth of time. Even into her late 70s, she wore extravagant hats, colored furs, and patterned capes. She favored shoes designed by Manolo Blahnik, and she accentuated her awe-inspiring look with bold makeup and colored streaks throughout her hair.
Candela Novembre: Though she was born in Argentina, Candela Novembre made Milan her home at the age of 17. She arrived with her twin sister and began modeling for Italian Vogue. Today, her massive Instagram following and style-savvy snaps on the streets during Fashion Week prove that she's a fashion icon in the making, with a bold approach to style. She's known to mix high-end labels like Chloe, Celine, and Chanel with vintage picks from around the world and is a close friend of super blogger Chiara Ferragni.
Chiara Ferragni: The model, now-designer and Italian blogger of The Blonde Salad, based in Milan, currently has one of the largest followings of any blogger on Instagram (5.5 million). Her style is a mix of high-end with a quirky twist and she definitely favors the big-name Italian labels like Moschino, Gucci, and Prada, wearing them at international fashion shows and events around the world.
Claudia Cardinale: The Italian film star appeared in some of the most famous movies of the ’60s and ’70s, both in Italy and abroad, such as "8 1/2," "The Leopard," and "Pink Panther." As a style icon, she's known for her bombshell look. Think: big hair, dramatic cat-eye liner, and dresses and skirts that really hugged her curves.
Delfina Delettrez: The jewelry designer and daughter of Silvia Venturini Fendi, creative director of accessories at Fendi, has carved out a niche with both her surrealistic baubles (her namesake line is full of rings, earrings, and necklaces embellished with eyes, lips, snakes, fruit, and other motifs) and her personal style: both which tend to go hand in hand. Her signature look seems to be classic, neutral separates worn under colored furs and with exaggerated sunglasses.
Donatella Versace: If there's one designer that dresses the part of her brand to a tee, it's Donatella Versace. She epitomizes the sleek, sexy culture that the Versace brand has built up with her long, straight blonde hair, body-con dresses, and black leather jackets.
Eleonora Carisi: The blogger behind JouJou Villeroy began her career with a boutique in Turin and a small fashion line before launching her personal style blog in 2010. Since then, the Italian native has been one of the most photographed street-style stars at Milan Fashion Week, as well as a collaborator with major brands spanning from Tod's to Moschino. She has a penchant for dramatic silhouettes and sunglasses.
Elsa Schiaparelli: Consider her the godmother of great surrealist fashion. As a designer, Schiaparelli was responsible for everything from a dress printed with a lobster and made in collaboration with Salvador Dali to a famous shoe shaped like a hat. Likewise, her personal style is full of the kinds of quirks she lived by, from trompe l'oeil prints to heavily embellished statement hats.
Franca Sozzani: As editor in chief of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani has ushered in a bold, progressive approach to covering fashion and culture, since she took the reigns in 1988. As a style icon, her look is elegant and poised, with chic midi dresses, flowy maxiskirts, and a strong predilection for Italian labels.
Giorgia Tordini: Milan-based design consultant Giorgia Tordini has emerged during the past few seasons as a rising street-style star, and rightly so: Her effortless way of pairing well-tailored, minimalist pieces makes getting dressed look incredibly chic and easy.
Gilda Ambrosio: The eclectic Italian street-style star hits all the right notes when it comes to mixing athleisure with high-end pieces like Vetements hoodies or bomber jackets casually layered over hot-pink dresses. It's her excellent sense of contrasts that always catches the camera's attention.
Giovanna Battaglia: She began her career as a model before transitioning to the world of styling. Now, as editor of L'Uomo Vogue and stylist to major fashion glossies like W, Giovanna Battaglia has an eclectic style all her own. She's known to mix current-season pieces with unexpected vintage finds from around the world, and often documents it in W or on Instagram.
Isabella Rossellini: This Italian actress proves that sometimes style gets better as it ages. Her affinity for embroidered coats, shrugs, and layered necklaces over simple ensembles like an all-back look really show that she takes her own comfort into consideration too: and that's a powerful thing.
Mariacarla Boscono: The Roman-born model naturally makes a statement with her looks, but it's her flair for dramatic proportions, as seen at events and parties, that has solidified her as a style icon. Whether it's a dress with a sheer skirt or a minidress with a pair of sky-high knee boots, she has her own way of mixing things for sure.
Monica Bellucci: As a model turned actress, Monica Bellucci embraces her curves and brings the drama with bold colors and silhouettes. She has the classic Italian bombshell style embodied by women before her time period, such as Claudia Cardinale. She doesn't shy away from scarlet reds or green velvet gowns, either.
Monica Vitti: Known as the muse of film icon Michelangelo Antonioni, Monica Vitti starred in the director's moody, industrial-inspired black-and-white movies. On-screen, her uniforms of little black dresses and dark sunglasses provided the ultimate complement of contrasts. Off-screen, her big hair and feminine approach to fashion made her one to watch.
Miuccia Prada: The designer is best known for her conceptual but wearable fashion, which takes inspiration from vintage silhouettes and color. So, it makes sense that her own personal style is very similar—since she often wears her own pieces. Aside from that, Prada has become an icon in the form of being a tastemaker, constantly creating new looks in the ever-evolving world of fashion.
Sophia Loren: The Italian actress is the original icon of Italian glamour, in films and in real life. She starred in the very famous "Marriage Italian Style." On the red carpet, she wore furs, elbow-length gloves, red lips, and a serious cat eye. Her finger-wave hairdo added to the look. She was also unafraid of playing with accessories—from larger-than-life sunglasses to neckties and furry hats.
Valentina Siragusa: The Italian blogger behind Factory Style and street-style native Valentina Siragusa takes risks with her fashion choices—in the best possible way. Among the ones that have paid off: pajamas worn with bold sunglasses, bold belted coats and dramatic turbans. She began her blog in 2009 and has remained an influencer ever since.