If you grew up in a small town in Italy, you know it well: the arrival of every summer coincides with a series of events organized by the municipality to entertain its inhabitants. These range from amateur theatre to cover band concerts, from open-air cinema to a parade under the stars during which the town’s hairdressers present their best creations combined with outfits found in local shops or in some low-cost chain while in the front row, sitting on plastic chairs, there is a group of old people and women who complain about the temperature.
Before social media and live streaming, this was one of only two ways for an ordinary person to experience a fashion show. The other was watching Donna sotto le stelle on TV, an upgraded version of your childhood memories spent in the suburbs. The ingredients remained more or less the same, just replace the facade of any town hall with the coolest Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna in Rome and to add a handful of high-profile brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Versace or Cavalli.
The event, organized by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion for the conclusion of the Roman High Fashion Week, aired every summer, broadcasted by Rai 1 from 1986 to 1992 and, later, until 2003 by Canale 5. The format was very classic: the host (Milly Carlucci, Gerry Scotti, Cristina Parodi, Pippo Baudo, Mara Venier, Sabrina Ferilli,…) briefly introduced the designer and the collection, before leaving room to the creations, worn by emerging models such as Mariacarla Boscono and popular stars such as Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Laetitia Casta and Valeria Mazza.
One by one, the models went down the 136 travertine steps of Trinità dei Monti, hiding among them a special guest, usually chosen among the television celebrities of the period (from Ambra to Sophia Loren, from Valeria Marini to the last winner of Big Brother). To complete the television liturgy there were some musical performances distributed between a catwalk and the other.
So, for one evening a year, Italian families enjoyed, a pinch of glamour and dreamt while watching Valentino and his homage to the Ziegfield Folies or the architectural constructions of Gianfranco Ferrè.
A few years ago, questioned about a possible return of Donna sotto le Stelle, Silvia Venturini Fendi, president of AltaRoma, excluded it:
“It was a television show, an image linked to the past. Rome has extraordinary locations (remember Fendi’s show at the Trevi Fountain?) but to use them you need a lot of money that we don’t have. We limit ourselves to offering “technical” fashion shows like in London or New York where the catwalks are “zero containers” for insiders and you can only see the dress.” – Silvia Venturini Fendi