High fashion in film: Italian identity and global anxiety in Valentino: The Last Emperor and Gomorrah | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2047-7368
  • E-ISSN: 2047-7376



The intersection between the Italian high-fashion industry and its relationship to national identity is explored in two 2008 films, Valentino: The Last Emperor (Tyrnauer, 2008) and Gomorrah (Garrone, 2008). The decline of high fashion problematizes Italy’s projection on a global stage of a national identity closely linked to its ‘Made in Italy’ brands and superiority in design. Both films conceptualize fashion as a salient cultural institution that is at the apex of pressing social, political and economic issues facing Italy as the country re-evaluates its construction of national identity. By visually exploiting the tension between the perfect exterior presentation of the fashion industry and the less appealing underlying realities, the directors challenge cinematically the boundaries between fiction and reality in identity construction at both national and global levels. The films showcase the performative creation of national symbols and in both the illusory quality of narratives of national identity emerges in the directors’ generically divergent yet topically convergent emphasis on the fiction of the constructed image.


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