‘I treat fashion the way I treat Aristotle’: A Q&A with Grazia D’Annunzio

Former Glamour Italia editor-in-chief Grazia D’Annunzio on her YouTube series, “Italian Fashion from A to Z,” produced by NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò.


Manasa Gudavalli

Grazia d’Annunzio and Stefano Albertini presented the launch of the new video series “Italian Fashion from A to Z” at NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

Samantha Burge, Contributing Writer

Don’t know the first thing about Italian fashion? Learn from one of Italian Vogue’s best. Grazia D’Annunzio, a fashion professor at the University of Milan, along with NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò launched the YouTube series “Italian Fashion from A to Z,” which explains the ins and outs of Italian fashion. 

The simple format of each episode details the not-so-simple history of Italian designers, from Prada to Dolce & Gabbana. Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò hosted an event launching the series on 24 W. 12th St. on Tuesday, Oct. 4. 

Black leather loafers and long beige trench coats filled the auditorium, as well as a plethora of thick red glasses — an Italian staple. The walls of the auditorium were peppered with filmmakers, aiming their cameras to get a perfectly tailored shot of NYU Italian professor Stefano Albertini’s interview with D’Annunzio. The audience was lively and thoroughly engaged, posing on-trend questions to the Italian Anna Wintour.

D’Annunzio emphasized her goal for the series — with students in mind — was to be able to craft serious comments about fashion. 

Grazia d'Annunzio wearing a blue floral robe holding a microphone.
Grazia d’Annunzio hosts a new 25-episode video series called “Italian Fashion from A to Z.” (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN) 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

WSN: Where are you from in Italy?

D’Annunzio: I’m from a small, lovely town south of Milan called Cremona. 

WSN: How did you get your start in the fashion industry?

D’Annunzio: That was by accident. I studied classics in university. Eventually, I wanted to work in a publishing house. My dad wanted me to become a lawyer. He was very practical. Working in a magazine could give me the possibility to explore what is happening currently. By studying classics, I knew everything until the third millennium, up to the fifth century A.D., and, after that, I didn’t know anything. 

WSN: What was your first piece? 

D’Annunzio: I started writing for this magazine that doesn’t exist anymore, which was Lei and eventually became Glamour. I was the first editor-in-chief for Glamour Italia. Then I went to work at Vogue. 

WSN: How did you come up with the idea for “Italian Fashion A to Z”?

D’Annunzio: During the pandemic, Casa Italiana asked me to come up with a project. I thought of a personal dictionary, specifically for students, because the episodes are concise, precise and engaging. In each episode, you’ll have the history of the brand or a history of a group of designers, which shaped Italian culture. For instance, I dedicated one episode of the series to the letter Q, which stands for questionnaire, and it stands for questions that people might address to me. Where can I study fashion in Italy? Which are the best fashion museums in Italy? What are the best fashion books in Italy? I created the English series because I wanted a very broad audience.

WSN: Wow, you are the Godmother of Italian Fashion.

D’Annunzio: I love teaching, and I would like to give young people the opportunity to research fashion from a serious point of view, not an Instagram or Facebook point of view. In order to have an opinion, you need to study, and there are very few books on the history of designers. I spent more than a week on each episode. 

WSN: How long did the project take you?

D’Annunzio: Two years. 

WSN: What do people think of when they hear “Italian fashion”?

D’Annunzio: High-quality products. Attention to detail. Wearability. A piece that you can have in your closet forever. 

WSN: How would you describe Italian fashion in three words?

D’Annunzio: Creative. Tailored. Precious.

WSN: How long have you lived in the United States?

D’Annunzio: 28 years. 

WSN: You have a solid background in American fashion. How do you think Americans view fashion versus Italians?

D’Annunzio: My first assignment was when I was a young editor at Lei magazine to translate a story on American fashion in 1980. The designers presented in the article were Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. What I like about American fashion on a very basic level is the concept of wearability. And on the concept of sportswear, no one can beat American fashion.

WSN: As a fashion professor at the University of Milan, do you still write in magazines

D’Annunzio: Currently, I do not write in fashion magazines. I write about fashion from a scholarly point of view. I write books, and I collaborate with fashion exhibitions. My method was from my training as a classical student. I studied Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and archeology for 15 years. I treated fashion the way I treated Aristotle. 

WSN: What are your future plans?

D’Annunzio: I will continue to contribute to Casa Italiana. I am co-writing a book with a professor at the University of Parma, Sara Martin, who will present at Casa Italiana with me on Nov. 1. 

The YouTube series “Italian Fashion A to Z” was released this past Tuesday, Oct. 4, and will release a new video on @CasaItalianaNYU every Tuesday. 

Contact Samantha Burge at [email protected].