Accidental Fashionistas: Naples, Italy

28 May

Sitting at the lobby bar of our Naples hotel, the Palazzo Alabardieri, last night we were recovering from a six-hour walk around this surprising city and thinking about where to go for dinner. Stuart was sampling the local wine in their ‘Tasting and Tapas’ happy hour. A real bargain at seven euro given it’s the swankiest hotel we’ve stayed in this trip.

We idly watched a horde of beautiful young people troop into the function room next door carrying clothes on hangers followed by a couple of women with makeup cases and a videographer. They left the door half open so I looked in. A small, energetic man, a dead ringer for the American actor Stanley Tucci but a touch better looking, seemed to be in charge. Finally I could stand the suspense no longer and when he came to get a drink at the bar I asked what was going on.

Transpired we were in the middle of preparations for shooting the pilot of a local reality TV show that follows a group of model hopefuls competing for the prize of a modeling contract. The short man was Gaetano Guadiero, the director and presenter of the show. The pencil thin, high cheekboned woman in the expensive, cut out white leather skirt and jacket with him was former model Natasha Maresca (modelling name Natasha May), one of the coaches for the ‘ragazzi’ (kids) as Gaetano called them. A tall, elegant man dressed in black with an artfully tied black and white scarf who passed through the hotel lobby was identified in respectful tones as Gianni Molaro, a well established Milan-based fashion designer collaborating with the show and whose fashions would feature.

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Gaetano asked if we’d like to see the ‘shooting’ take place down the street in a parking garage. I answered ‘Si per favore!’ in a heart beat. How often in this life would we get the chance to see a group of gorgeous young Italians strut their stuff in haute couture for an audience and the cameras?

Dressing, hair and makeup took about an hour, during which we chatted with the young ones when they came to get a drink at the bar. We also asked Natasha about her career and she showed us iphone photos from her modelling days.

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Fabrizio and Ciro in distressed singlets.

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Natasha in her last shoot for Gianni with the designer himself.

Suddenly Gaetano appeared again wearing a tuxedo jacket with black sequinned lapels, summoned everyone with a hand clap and shouted ‘Andiamo!’ leading the group like the Pied Piper out of the hotel and down the road while the cameraman ran to keep up. We followed just far enough behind to stay out of shot.

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Areas of Naples have been blasted out of rock to create car parks. The one we entered on Via Morelli connected with a huge cavernous space converted into a function room with gigantic white lions perched on ledges high above us. The ridiculously well dressed, handsome audience was already seated when we arrived and applauded the young people as they came in.

Gaetano stepped up to the microphone, talked about the show and introduced some of the audience members. Gaetano’s assistant seated us next to a celebrity couple and behind more models, fashion journalists, bloggers and a fashion professor. We tried to smile and look like we understood what was being said, especially when cameras were pointed our way, but I’m sure we stood out like the foreigners we were.

To loud dance music the wannabe models walked on in two groups. They had mixed up the girls and boys and themed the first group with the boys in white singlets (grease applied by make up artists) and girls in casual wear as ‘Garage’. The second wore formal wear, including two fabulous flesh coloured, gold and lace trimmed gowns by Gianni. The boys clutched champagne bottles in keeping with the theme of ‘The After Party’.

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After circling the stage with their best model walks, as Natasha had coached them, a tattoed young man, introduced as Matteo arranged them into various groupings and poses. I understood enough to realise he is a top Italian fashion photographer.

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It was thrilling to see the ragazzi transform under his direction from laughing, joking youngsters into serious professionals. Both they and Matteo worked hard to try to quickly capture the look and mood he was striving for. Some poses involved back bends, jumps and hair pulling! I was slightly embarrassed for them when Matteo made the singlet clad boys create a male model sandwich over which the girls draped themselves. Sexy posing is what it was all about but then that’s nothing more than we see every day on Naples streets.

I had already identified my favourites, cheeky, bearded Fabrizio and sultry, long-haired brunette Veronica in the green one piece. I was secretly willing them to win.

Of course no one will find out the result until June when the competition is finalised but it was exciting to be part of their story and I hope the pilot is picked up by Sky TV.


After the photographer shot the last frame and some more cognescenti had been interviewed about their views of the models, the shoot wrapped and Gaetano invited us to stay for campari and cake. We begged to be excused as we hadn’t eaten and it was now 10:30pm. Unlike models we need real food! Parting kisses Italian style and many ‘ciaos’ later we were walking back down Via Morelli pinching ourselves at our dumb luck to be in Bar Amazzone for happy hour!

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