MILAN – Beppe Modenese, the force behind the coalescence of Italian ready-to-wear fashion in the northern city of Milan, has died. He was 90.
Modenese died Saturday in the fashion capital. No cause of death was given.
Dubbed “Italy’s Prime Minister of Fashion” in 1983 by Women’s Wear Daily, Modenese remained a front-row mainstay into recent seasons, maintaining the official title of honorary president of the Italian fashion council, the Italian National Fashion Chamber. An impeccable dresser, he was known for one extravagance: red socks.
“Beppe Modenese contributed like no one else to the birth of the Italian fashion system,’’ fashion council president Carlo Capasa said in a statement. “We lose a reference figure and an icon, many of us also lose a generous friend. We will miss his intelligence and elegance, his sense of humor, and his wit, but Beppe leaves us a great legacy to honor.”
Modenese started his fashion career in the 1950s in Florence, working with Giovanni Battista Giorgini to organize the first Italian runway shows in Florence in the early 1950s, as Italian fashion began to gain an international following around such houses as Emilio Pucci and Roberto Capucci.
He was instrumental in later moving the center of fashion gravity from Florence’s Pitti Palace to Milan, persuading such founding fashion names as Missoni to make the transition, and sharing a lifelong friendship with the late founder Ottavio Missioni and his widow, Margherita.
He was among the founders of the Italian High Fashion Syndicated, which later became the Italian National Fashion Chamber, which he led for many years. During his tenure, runway shows were concentrated in the now-old Milan convention center, but now have since decentralized to locations throughout the city, with many designers constructing their own venues.
As the head of the fashion council, Modenese discovered many talents, notably Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who made their Milan runway debut in 1985.