Italy to the Mideast: How Florence’s iconic designers made the leap

Florence-based fashion designers have dressed the world’s stars and they don’t look set to stop any time soon

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From Naomi Campbell to Nancy Ajram and Kate Moss, Florence-based fashion designers have dressed the world’s stars and they don’t look set to stop any time soon.

Whether it be Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Guccio Gucci or Emilio Pucci, they are all being celebrated during the 60th anniversary of the Center of Florence for Italian Fashion.


These Italian powerhouses have been at the cutting edge of fashion design for years and their influence on the Middle East, as well as their inspiration from the region, is clear.

Roberto Cavalli

With his animal print-adorned pricey designs, Cavalli’s creations would not look out of place in what many see as the glamorous Gulf.


Cavalli brought his touch to Dubai in 2009 with the opening of the Cavalli nightclub, which welcomed a number of Arab and International celebrities including Ragheb Alama and Carmen Electra.

The Roberto Cavalli Group, which opened a new Cavalli Caffè in Beirut on January 2013, plans to continue its expansion in the Middle East with the upcoming openings of Cavalli Caffè in Kuwait City and Doha.

However, before being the king of the nightlife, Cavalli is a fashion guru with more than 25 stores across the Middle East.

“Cavalli understood what each market was looking for and brought his own touch to it,” fashion expert Rony Zeidan told Al Arabiya News.

Last week, the Italian designer was sharply criticized by the Islamic Sufi community as they accused Cavalli of copying their “sacred emblem” for branding the “Just Cavalli” line.

Cavalli opened his first store in St Tropez in 1972.

Emilio Pucci

Crowned the “The Prince of Prints,” Emilio Pucci started his career in 1947, bringing about a revolution in the fashion world with colors and free flowing garments inspired by oriental cultures and by the natural landscapes of the Mediterranean.


The Florentine house of Pucci introduced a sophisticated fusion of color to the international high fashion scene, made colorful, kaleidoscopic prints world-famous and once counted Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Lauren as top clients. Pucci embarked on a new chapter when it entered the Middle Eastern market.

Recently, Pucci’s Peter Dundas made a strong style statement with the introduction of the Middle East-inspired Kaftan to the Western fashion world.


Paris Hilton was spotted in the streets of Los Angeles wearing the garment.

He was a rebel that revolutionized the Western market by getting his inspiration from a different part of the world, said a fashion expert in Florence.

Pucci touched down in Dubai when it collaborated with Guerlain in 2012 for an exclusive make-up collection introduced in the international department store Harvey Nichols.

Guccio Gucci

Founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci, the fashion house has since grown to become an international powerhouse.

From the “GG” logo to the bar-and-bit belt buckle; the bamboo-handled handbag and the shiny velvet pantsuit, Gucci has dressed stars from Haifa Wahbe to Nicole Kidman.


The brand was first introduced to the Middle East in 1999 by the al-Tayer Group and in 2011 the Italian brand hosted a jewelry exhibition in Dubai.

“Gucci is completely dedicated to the Middle Eastern market to which he introduced, for example, the made to order handbags which are only available for a selected number of international markets,” Zeidan said.

In April, Gucci hit the Middle East for its second edition of the annual exhibition Icons for Icons.

The exhibition, which was called “the future is now,” celebrated Dubai’s expo 2020 victory.

Salvatore Ferragamo

Although born in southern Italy, Salvatore Ferragamo set up in Florence in 1927 and built himself an empire by fashioning covetable shoes for stars like Marilyn Monroe.

The designer store is housed in the medieval Palazzo Spini Feroni, on the most luxurious street in Florence, which also includes the unique Salvatore Ferragamo shoe museum.


The Italian Maison made its first steps into the Middle East in 2009, with the launch of its first flagship store in Dubai.

It later continued its expansion in the region with the latest boutique opening last April in Kuwait City.

As of today, Salvatore Ferragamo boasts a total of 12 stores throughout the Middle East.

In addition to shoes, the Italian design house incorporated fragrance and eyewear to its repertoire.

The Florentine design house also made its first steps into the high-end luxury residential segment in the UAE in 2008 after an agreement to design the interior of exclusive penthouses.

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