Is Pope Francis Influencing Italian Fashion?

Since being appointed as head of the catholic church in March, Pope Francis has been seen as more humble and less ostentatious than previous popes. And so has the fashion coming out of Italy, Suzy Menkes argues in the International Herald Tribune.

She cites Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino as examples of Italian brands whose latest offerings have been more staid than usual. Menkes notes Dolce & Gabbana's religious-themed fall 2013 collection and "a white lace dress that could have served for a first communion" in its window of the brand's store on the Via dei Condotti. Valentino, Menkes points out, showed ankle-lenth, long-sleeved offerings for fall 2013.

Also, at last week's AltaModa event, which showcases work from emerging Italian designers, the clothes on display were of the more modest variety.

It is a far cry from the loud, sexy clothes typically associated with Italian fashion–in particular brands like Roberto Cavalli and Versace, whose designs have, for the most part, remained true to their flamboyant DNA.

Still, Fendi co-designer Silvia Venturini Fendi attested to the Pope's influence. "It's a whole new spirit in Rome," she told the Times, "and this is evident when we have a new pope going back to real Christianity, which lately was far from the church."

"People are looking for meaning," she continued, "and the real meaning of fashion is as a tool to express yourself. Sometimes fashion hides your language but we look for meaning in materials and fabrics to allow true personality to come out."

So is it safe to say that humility is in and "look at me" clothes are out in Italy?

Maybe to a certain extent, but the trend isn't specific to Italy. The move towards more understated clothing has been seen in all the fashion capitals for a few seasons now. The same is true of ethical fashion–something else a few of the sources cited in Menkes's story associated with the Pope's influence. "Maybe there is a moment when we want to focus on other things in life and give fashion a different meaning to clothing," Venturini Fendi said. "Women are thinking and dressing more ethically. This pope is what we all needed." It may also be worth noting that both the collections currently in stores and the fall 2013 collections were designed before Pope Francis's appointment.

Of course, the appointment of a new pope was a huge cultural event–it would be odd if it weren't influential in some way. It will be interesting this fall to see if designers are even more restrained with their offerings for spring 2014.

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