Fashion's A-List Fetes Vogue Italia Archive Milan

MILAN--Emotional archival images of Marisa Berenson, Penelope Tree and Benedetta Barzini's were plastered on walls and touch screens at Conde Nast's Milan headquarters on Sunday night -- reminding Italy's top designers why they entered into this business in the first place.

A Sunday evening cocktail event kicked off "The Vogue Archive; Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Fashion" exhibit, marking the 50th year anniversary of Vogue Italia.

Designers like Alberta Ferretti, Roberto Cavalli, Stefano Gabbana, Ermanno Scervino, Massimo Giorgetti and Alberto Moretti, as well as actress Rosario Dawson and international supermodels Amber Valletta, Karolina Kurkova, Eva Herzigova, Linda Evangelista and Poppy Delevingne got a privileged first peak at the exhibit.

Along with the wall decor, interactive screens housed pages and pages of Vogue Italia since its inception.  Iconic photo shoots by David Bailey, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh and Bruce Weber reminded visitors of the historic, economic, racial and gender issues that have rocked and shaped our society over the last half century.  Vogue Italia said the archive will become the most important digital fashion archive in the world.

On the crowded first floor of the exhibit, an awestruck Alberta Ferretti gazed at leather-themed Vogue Italia photographs towering above her, her face lit by the dim blue hue of the touch screen.

When asked what her favorite Vogue Italia cover of all time is, she said: "The ones I am in, of course."

The show was also an homage to another Italian pillar of fashion, Franca Sozzani, who has been the magazine's editor for more than half of Vogue Italia's entire existence.

Tapped Editor-in-Chief in 1988, Sozzani garnered recognition for her artistically abstract and poignant photo shoots like the "Curvy" issue in June 2011 that made a statement against anorexia, as well as the "Black Issue" in July of 2008, which was dedicated entirely to black models.

"She is an amazing high-priestess of Italian fashion," Pucci designer Peter Dundas, flanked by models at the entrance, told NOWFASHION.

"I think of her [Sozzani] in many different ways," said supermodel Karolina Kurkova as she navigated the crowded, narrow staircase of the exhibition. "She is a humanitarian, a mom and overall, a woman who empowers women," Kurkova added.

"She has exquisite taste, she is really lovely, she is trying to change things still.  She is a game changer," said Rosario Dawson, who has been in Milan over the past week working with Vogue Italia on a photo shoot for her ethical fashion initiative Studio One Eighty Nine, an ecommerce shopping site that supports and promotes African designers and artisans. 

Dawson's business partner, Abrima Erwiah agreed.

"She [Sozzani] actually comes to Africa. She came to Ghana. She speaks with artisans. She speaks to designers. She hand selects them. She invites them to Italy and allows us to tell our story amazing crafts and craftspeople," Erwiah said.

Studio One Eight Nine, along with Senegalese designer Sophie Zinga, participated in the Vogue Talent's event, which was also promoted by Sozzani.

Vogue Italia officially began in 1961 when Conde Nast contacted the owner of Novita' about investing in another magazine that altered fashion with tips and advice. In 1964, under the leadership of Franco Sartori, Novita' transformed into "Vogue & Novita'" and in 1966, the magazine became "Vogue Italia".

The exhibit will be open to the public and will offer guided tours upon reservation until Oct. 5.