MILAN — Fashion as a reflection of society — and Italy seen from the fashion point of view — are the central premises of an exhibition to be held next year at Milan’s Royal Palace.
“Italiana. Narrating Italian History Through Fashion, 1971-2001,” was conceived and curated by critic, curator and professor Maria Luisa Frisa and W editor in chief Stefano Tonchi, and is promoted by Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. The exhibition will be unveiled on Feb. 21, during Milan Fashion Week, and will run from the following day until May 6.
“This is a crucial period, fueled by the success of fashion and lifestyle Made in Italy,” said Frisa, referring to the years detailed in the exhibition. “The exhibit focuses not only on Italian designers, but also on the country’s production pipeline.” The year 1971 marked the transition from haute couture to the rise of Italian ready-to-wear with the staging of Walter Albini’s first show in Milan, while 2001 refers to the Sept. 11 attacks, which “shook up the whole system.”
Tonchi said Italiana “is an adjective, but in this case it’s a noun, like Americana — regrouping styles and atmospheres of Italian culture, with fashion as the point of view.”
“We have been feeling the need to work on the history and culture of Italian fashion to understand its present and what its strengths and problems are. If we see this in a historical perspective, we understand what has defined the trajectory of contemporary fashion,” Frisa explained.
Tonchi emphasized the speed with which Italian fashion has responded to and interpreted social changes, promoting democratization and tackling issues such as “androgyny, dual gender, the uniform for working women, men’s new and more sensitive identity, homosexuality, and the advent of global traveling, with collections inspired by Africa, India and Morocco.” He also noted how Italian fashion introduced total looks and the concept of lifestyle, from Giorgio Armani to Prada and Versace. Several brands, he noted, have developed local histories and identities internationally, such as Dolce & Gabbana with the Sicilian theme, Antonio Marras and the island of Sardinia, or Gianni Versace and his links with his hometown of Reggio Calabria, at the heart of Magna Graecia.
“Italian fashion is not only about dreams, it also has a deep impact on daily life,” noted Frisa.
The exhibition will not be chronological, but hinge on different themes and be illustrated by around 120 fashion looks and objects from fashion, art, design, photography and publishing.
Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian chamber of fashion, said the exhibition would coincide with the association’s 60th anniversary next year.
During a presentation of the project on Monday, Milan’s fashion councilor Cristina Tajani said the exhibit is an additional opportunity to promote the city outside of Italy.
Federico Marchetti, chief executive officer of the Yoox Net-a-porter Group, the exhibit’s main sponsor, said the partnership was not purely financial, but more personal. “We have been talking about this project for two or three years and in the decision, I listened to my heart. In 1999, when I imagined Yoox, before Wikipedia, the iPhone or Facebook ever existed, I started from Italy as a complete outsider and designers helped carry my dream forward,” said Marchetti. “Those that say that Italian fashion designers are not brave are wrong. I am the living example, as this was a revolutionary project that was embraced by the Italians even before the French, so this is a way to express my gratitude. In terms of business, Italy weighs less than the U.S. or the U.K., but Made in Italy [products] account for most of the sales.”
Pomellato is also a sponsor of the exhibit and creative director Vincenzo Castaldo noted how Pino Rabolini, who founded the firm in 1967, contributed to the evolution of the Italian fashion system by “bringing the concept of ready-to-wear in jewelry,” and emphasizing the label’s connection to Milan.