“Have you become one of those feminists?” Irene’s mother asks her one evening. Her crime? Being busy at work and arriving home with a new split in her skirt. It’s 1974 in Milan and, like most young people her age, Irene is caught between the old and new. She lives in a small apartment with her parents and studies art history at university. But her professor doesn’t want to hear her “new ideas” about Botticelli and psychology, while her father just wants her to get a job as a secretary. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has been promoted to a managerial position and wants to get married.
Irene (played by a wide-eyed Greta Ferro) is hesitant. She’s part of a new generation who doesn’t want to regurgitate what her professors or her parents tell her. She has her own ideas and wants to be heard.
Cue a job at the fashion magazine Appeal and you’ve got Made in Italy, a fun Italian series where the Devil wears Missoni and rides a Vespa. The magazine gives Irene a freedom she doesn’t have anywhere else in her life. Sure, she may be fetching coffee and hauling bags of clothes around to fashion shoots but she is being listened to and she’s absorbing a world far removed from her own.
It would be easy to dismiss Made in Italy as the most irresistible of confections but it’s a sweet period piece that comes with a sharp centre. As any purveyor of fashion shows, films and documentaries – from Designing Women to Sex and the City, Absolutely Fabulous, The Devil Wears Prada, The September Issue and even our own Paper Giants – knows it’s not just about the clothes, darling. It’s politics, baby – gender, workplace, identity and plain old office politics.