意大利時尚品牌在全球各地都大受歡迎：不論是在倫敦、紐約還是香港，你總能在高級商店區找到 Prada、Armani、Zegna、Versace 與 Dolce & Gabbana 等意大利品牌的櫥窗。當你逛完時裝店而想找個地方休憩的話，也不難發現隨處是意式餐廳或咖啡室，可以吃上一口披薩或意粉，呷一口紅酒或咖啡。然後，你赫然發現所在的地方其實距離地中海十萬八千里，身邊完全看不見意大利人雄辯滔滔的手勢，不禁會自問：這種昂貴的意式痴迷究竟從何而來？
The secret of Italian success
It is no secret that Italian fashion brands have the curious habit of becoming popular wherever they are marketed.
It doesn’t matter if you are in London, New York, or in Hong Kong, you can always count on Gucci, Prada and Armani, or Zegna, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, to dominate the shop windows in the high streets.
Then, to take a break from trying on shirts and shoes, you can always pop in an Italian, or at least Italian-inspired, restaurant or café, to enjoy a pizza, some pasta, fine wines and coffee. If by then you haven’t forgotten that you’re actually not even close to the Mediterranean and that eloquent hand gestures are nowhere to be seen, you might wonder what’s the deal with all this expensive Italian obsession.
After all, Italy isn’t especially distinguished, either in the the breeding of sheep or in the farming of cotton. And half of the ingredients of Italian cuisine were never seen on italian soil until they were brought from America in the renaissance.
Yet countries with a similar location and history, like Greece or Spain, can’t boast a similar international fame in fashion. So, is Italy like king Midas, and just magically turns to gold all what it touches?
On the contrary, the secret that makes italian brands so appreciated by the critics seems to be the exact opposite of magic: the Italian stylists of today share the obsession of the Italian artists of the past, namely to realise their work on a human scale.
Others might design their work, be it clothes or furniture, based on some message: like gothic cathedrals represented the overwhelming superiority of the divine, their design tries to look powerful, or expensive, impressive or lavish, even frightening and reverencing.
But the Italian designers don’t care about all this, their worry is but that it must look good on people, the human body and psyche is their only measure.
So, when one sees an element of Italian fashion, one won’t just think “this’ll impress my boss”, “this’ll attract my girlfriend”, “this’ll show everyone I can afford it” and “this’ll make me look powerful with my coworkers”: most importantly, one will think: “this’ll look good on me”. The human is the best measure of what is suited for the human.
It’s the same principle for food: one can know items from many cuisines, once again based on their rarity, high cost, or symbolic value. Everyone wants to be seen eating oysters and caviar. But the Italian cuisine rarely cares about that and only posits one question: does it taste good?