“BELLISSIMA. Italian Haute Couture 1945-1968.” More than 20 years of fashion. What has changed since then?
I would not speak about change, but of transformations, to register setting. The period that we examined is interesting because it allows us to understand that high fashion in Italy was a path to the focus of the luxury prey-a-porter that, between the seventies and especially eighties, made us famous in the world. The process began just after the war, through close collaboration between creators and textile companies, and with the support of the Marshall Plan.
BELLISSIMA depicts precisely an beautiful Italy, from North to South, in a extraordinary moment of creativity for the country. What are the key cities of this exhibition and why?
The exhibition tells Italy from the fashion perspective, but is also the journey of fashion in Italy; in a kind of topography, which runs through the book, and which is also the genesis of the current fashion system of our country. The book, infact, describes the events that saw fashion protagonists in Turin, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. In a competition, collaboration that continues to this day and that has made our country an exemplary territory for the creation, production and dissemination of fashion.
On display there are some extraordinary films from the Archive Light that tell exactly how our cities have been able to play a key role in building the image and mythology of Italian fashion. Collective action, which arises precisely from the polycentric system of our fashion.
Fashion and Art have found themselves at the Maxxi on this occasion with VB74 aka the performance by Vanessa Beecroft. Tell us more about this cooperation
Fashion is especially a body project. A project of bodies. Of all bodies. Vanessa Beecroft, with the occasion of the exhibition, has created a performance that in a precise, almost obsessive way, gives back life to a sequence of frozen mannequins that populate the installation. VB74 has reactivated the complex language of women’s bodies that have immortalized our high fashion. Completing and contradicting the story of a fundamental moment in the Italian history to understanding the movements that led to the international success; that powerful label that is called “made in Italy”. It all starts from fashion, which is the absolute, unique project, built on the body of the single individual, unrepeatable.
Tell us about the clothes on display: which one seems timeless and contemporary today? Which rather than identifying more of those years?
The exhibition depicts 80 dresses that have been selected with great care to give a critical reading of Italian fashion in a seminal period in the history of our country. The clothes were chosen with the filter of today: contemporaries are most of the pieces that tell the high fashion by day, which soon becomes high fashion and then luxury pret-a-porter. Suits, coats, complete the impeccable construction and excellent fabrics. Are our strengths today. The clothes that are deeply related to the period are extraordinary evening creations great evening worn by celebrities who have lived the Hollywood on the Tevere and his glamorous unattainable. These dresses are great sign of their time, in exaggerated forms and elaborated and sophisticated embroidery.
Pasquale De Antonis, Federico Garolla, Ugo Mulas: 3 great photographers that tell BELLISSIMA landscapes of the Italian fashion. What characterizes each of them?
This is a selection made for the exhibition among all extraordinary photographers of the period, which in the book we have instead represented in their entirety. The three photographers chosen tell ideally three decades and three very specific ways of understanding the fashion photography. De Antonis, close to the forties, is pictorial in its use the baroque and classic Rome. Garolla, extraordinary reporter and interpreter of the fifties, photographing the clothes in motion, in the streets of a modern Rome. Mulas, between the end of the fifties and the sixties, made his models travel to Italy, in those scenarios which have become postcard landscapes, a grammar that consists of those scenarios that today we connect automatically to the Italian atmosphere.
The exhibition is curated by Anna Mattirolo Director of Maxxi, Stefano Tonchi Publisher of W Magazine and yourself. How did this team work together?
The exhibition and the book are the development and realization of an exhibition project – Roma Amor – the brainchild of Altaroma and to which I have started working with Judith Clark. Subsequently it became Bellissima, a project in which MAXXI believed a lot. An extraordinary way to let the fashion enter MAXXI museum, and to reflect on the role of fashion itself in the Italian cultural scene. Stefano Tonchi is a travel companion with whom i’ve worked for some time on projects that reflect on the role of fashion as simultaneously economic and cultural system, and Anna Mattirolo was a fundamental referent to relate art with fashion and rebuild such history of those years.
You’re the Director of the Master of Science in Fashion Design of IUAV in Venice and Treviso. Do you talk to your students about costume? BELLISSIMA gave you more ideas?
Yes, I am responsible for a degree course in Fashion Design and Multimedia Arts at IUAV. I talk to my students about fashion – never costume – and its stories. Stories that we can be reactivated today to understand the scenarios of tomorrow. This is a curatorial operation of storytelling, crucial also and especially, in internal processes to the design of fashion. The past should not be recalled with nostalgia, but with today’s perspective, in order to keep alive the strongest elements, able to provide useful suggestions in the search, which is always to be understood as an action of conceptual design.
Give us a preview of your upcoming projects?
The next projects are always connected to the building of a culture of Italian fashion, able to deal consciously with other contemporary disciplines and with the size of the museum, and of ‘ oing’ exhibitions. I am interested in ‘fashion curating’ as a critical operation on fashion. At the same time supporting the fashion as a discipline that tells the contemporary visual culture is an active part of my work as Chairman of MISA Italian Association of the University of Fashion. We are working now to the second meeting of this new association, and the theme will be specifically that of fashion studies in Italy, and their role not only in the academic world, but also within companies and businesses.
For recognition of fashion as a university discipline – which plays a central role in the economy of our country – there is much to do, and MISA is working in this direction.