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>> The New York Times


The New York Times - January 19, 2008 by Eric Wilson After the clobbering Italian fashion has taken of late — in some accounts for its inability to produce a new generation of hot designers, in others for using underpaid Chinese immigrants to make overpriced handbags — Isabella Rossellini is making a stand for Milan. Ms. Rossellini, the actress and model, appears in a new government-financed advertising campaign that urges American consumers to “Let yourself be charmed by an Italian.” And although Ms. Rossellini, is, of course, half Swedish and now lives in America, she was born in Rome, is indeed charming, adores Italian fashion and is disarmingly honest in her sales pitch. “Quite frankly, I think it is appropriate because I have worked as a model,” she said. “They might have chosen Sophia Loren or Monica Bellucci, but I think I might have worked in fashion more.” She has, as they say, kicked the tires. She has been out with Giorgio Armani and been surprised to see crowds treating him as the star. She remembers Max Mara as a coat house and Prada when it sold only purses. She remembers how fashion was perceived when she first came to New York at 19. (She resented “all these stereotypes about spaghetti and meatballs, which we never eat in Italy,” she said.) Ms. Rossellini, who was once the face of the French cosmetics company Lancôme, is well versed on the intricacies of the American marketplace and how difficult it can be to succeed here. Perhaps this makes her sensitive to the competitiveness among Italian designers trying to do the same. Deciding what Ms. Rossellini would wear for the campaign was fraught. “Obviously, everything had to be Italian,” she said. “The great debate was whether I would wear an Armani or a Missoni.” Ms. Rossellini coyly suggested an outfit by Cristina Bomba, a designer unknown outside of Italy, “because either Armani or Missoni would be such a strong signature that it would make the other one jealous.” She praised Armani and Missoni, mind you. She once wore a lot of Dolce & Gabbana, too, but this is where Ms. Rossellini went a bit off message. “I’m not fat,” she said, “or maybe I’m vain and don’t want to think of myself as fat. But now I don’t fit, and that is a mystery to me.”

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