We all know the clichés of the Italian bella figura and their obsession with style – but this is not just as a result of their preoccupation with appearances. Underneath the elegant exterior lies a rich and diverse history, linking craftsmanship of the highest quality to that more aesthetic side of the clothing industry.

Working with complex stitching on highly technical fabrics is a demanding task, and it’s here where these traditional skills are put to great use. Although the costs may be marginally lower to produce in the Far East, the gap is narrowing as the emerging economies develop. So not only do we enjoy the advantage of a deep rooted pride and tradition, we pay a relatively minor premium for it.

The fashion house of Prada in Milan, for example, only became seriously interested in design in the 1970s. From the beginning, it was established as a leathergoods store of high repute on account of the quality and longevity of its products; the same could be said of Gucci from Florence. and many other ‘designer’ labels.

The indigenous skills which became the bedrock of the Italian fashion industry are widely available in Northern Italy, even more so now that mass-market fashion chains such as Benetton have moved much of their production to Eastern Europe and even the Far East.