Oliviero Toscani

MILAN — The designer clothes displayed at the Royal Palace here as part of the exhibition kicking off Milan Fashion Week today help reflect on Italy and its history — and on issues that are particularly of the moment.

The time slot of the exhibition “Italiana. Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001” spans from the first runway show staged in Milan by Walter Albini with the first feminist, pro-abortion and pro-divorce movements, until the 9/11 attacks, “the change of the system, the arrival of global finance and the sale of Gucci to PPR,” explained during a preview Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief of W, who conceived and curated the exhibit with critic, curator and professor Maria Luisa Frisa.

“Italiana” comprises around 130 looks from Italian brands and designers, displayed over nine rooms and divided not chronologically but by themes, ranging from the designers’ need to explore through travels to gender and the identity of men’s and women’s wear — a theme that is especially at the forefront of fashion today. “Italians responded to this issue and in a more precise way than others,” Tonchi said. “You can see here daily clothes for women who work, it’s not a game of roles,” he added, pointing to pantsuits and looks by the likes of Giorgio Armani, Romeo Gigli, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, Costume National, Krizia and Albini, to name a few.

The nine themes are Identity, Democracy, Logomania, Diorama, Project Room, Bazaar, Post-Production, Glocal and The Italy of Objects.

“The Italian fashion is a complex system, unique in the world, but choral, with everyone contributing to it — not only the major brands, and we hope to show it with this exhibition,” Frisa said.

There are not only clothes, but also home collections by Ken Scott and Versace and leather goods by the likes of Gucci, Tod’s and Trussardi.

To emphasize the connection with Italian culture and design, art works by Maurizio Cattelan, Francesco Vezzoli and Vanessa Beecroft, for example, and photos by Aldo Fallai, Paolo Roversi, Gian Paolo Barbieri and Oliviero Toscani, are displayed throughout the exhibition.

“We have not always narrated our stories, the extraordinary moment of the birth of our ready-to-wear, which did not happen by chance, but marked the evolution of our society with a richer bourgeoisie,” said Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber. “The exhibit shows Italian creativity and its industrialization, with the complete manufacturing pipeline, the shift from family businesses to a new system of international finance, and mirrors Italian lifestyle,” he noted.

“Italiana” is promoted and produced by the city of Milan, the Royal Palace and the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana with the support of the Minister of Economic Development and trade agency ICE.

The main partner is the Yoox Net-a-porter Group, and the project is in collaboration with Pomellato with mannequins by La Rosa.

The exhibition will run until May 6.

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