Italian Design: A nation of fashionistas or forward thinkers?


A nation of fashionistas or forward thinkers?


Design is all around

Years ago great design wouldn’t have come to my mind unless I was looking at a Philippe Starck chair or an interiors magazine. I didn’t consider properly how it enters our everyday lives and how important it is.

Since meeting my Italian Husband however I’ve come to realise that firstly ‘La bella figura’ which means ‘To make a good impression’ is one of the most important traits in Italian culture and that appearance and design are at the heart of everything we touch.

Looks are not enough

Equally important though is longevity and quality. An Italian can spot poor workmanship a mile off and as originators of the ‘Made in Italy’ trademark along with many other indicators of quality, Italians care more for craftsmanship and artisan movements over fast fashion, poor materials and quick, cheap solutions.


Well known for their fashion houses it would be easy to think that high level luxury brands don’t permeate the average Italian. From what I’ve witnessed this is not true.

While not everyone can afford a Gucci handbag, the desire to own something well made, with wonderful materials, that will last, is true of most Italian mindsets.

Italians spend more on clothing and accessories than other Western Europeans and are happy to save for an item that will last them many years, than throw something out every season.

These however are not new trends; this is the core of Italian design values: function coming together with beauty. However what I feel is awakening in Italy and around the world is a conscience about how we live our lives and use our resources.

Livia Firth, (Who happens to be Wife to actor Colin Firth), is an Italian who is championing green initiatives in fashion. Since starting the consultancy Eco-Age Ltd she has worked tirelessly with her team to address sustainability issues which affect this industry. 

Her Green Carpet Challenge, a movement which assists celebrities in wearing brands which meet a set of global sustainability principles at high profile events, has become a great success. 

I myself have become very conscious of Livia's project #30wears which asks you to think before you buy clothes and ask yourself' "Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?". If as is often the case the answer is no, or if that item might disintegrate before it reaches 30 wears should we really be creating, manufacturing, buying it?

Once you start to think about the integrity of how we create the things we love, you realise it's all around us and difficult to ignore.  

Designing for life in the future

Overall Italians care a great deal about sustainability, I believe they are a bit ahead of us in the UK on this theme, it seeps into everything they do including their architecture.

How environmentally friendly is a new apartment block? How practical is it to live in? Yes it has to look good but it’s not enough to only look good. It has to enhance the lives and ease the consciences of the people occupying/using it. They want to feel proud of where they live and how it functions. That they are doing their bit. I’m always amazed and impressed at the complexity of Italian recycling systems and the lengths people go to, in order to follow them!

One impressive new project is from Boeri Studio Architects in Milan whom have been creating Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forests). These are attractive apartment tower blocks with trees and gardens on every balcony. The trees help mitigate the Milan smog and produce oxygen.

They create high-density housing for our increasingly large populations but depollute the environment around it and create a more harmonious place to live rather than an urban sprawl.

Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti, Milan.

Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti, Milan.


The affect we have on our environment and just as important how our environment affects us I believe will be the biggest driver for how we start to view design in the future.

We are all becoming busier, more stressed; our technological lives are switched on all the time. We live together in closer quarters and in larger numbers than we have for centuries.

We all need to be considering more what we buy, from whom. The values of the companies we use.  How we and they dispose of our waste, how we re-use our resources.

How do our living quarters make us feel? Can we preserve our natural environment for as long as possible and ideally, infinitely if we make some changes now?

Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti, Milan.

Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti, Milan.

A design conscience

Great design is practical, it’s perceptive. In my opinion the next big trend will be that we are designing with a conscience.

We are already becoming much more aware of our place in the natural world and in what ways large corporations are not protecting it.

We are starting to realise the power of us the consumer, in instigating change.

The Millennials or Generation Y, (Those born between early 1980s and 2000), seem to be the generation whom will really influence what is built and created. In a recent survey a person born in the Baby boomer generation, (Born early-to-mid 1940s - 1964), would rather buy a car that was made in their own country whereas a Millennial would buy a car that has the least impact on the environment.

This group are also happy to pay more for a product with an ethical heart.

These types of behaviours are being more openly witnessed, communicated and studied. The desires of Millennials are transcending into company decision making. Everyone creating a product or service today would be wise to take note of what will make the next generation reach for their wallet.

Hopefully this will in turn create a world designed around values that will benefit us all. With technology hidden away, recycled materials, less waste, more harmony with the natural world and ultimately still looking beautiful to keep that ‘Bella figura’.

This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader  #designingforfuture

Lucy At Home