View Slideshow

FLORENCE, Italy — The fashion crowd flocked to the Palazzo Gerini here on Tuesday night for the opening of an intimate and playful exhibition organized by Pitti Immagine in honor of the life and career of Kiton founder Ciro Paone.

Curator Angelo Flaccavento said he set out to create a portrait of the values that Paone stands for. “Ciro is the patron saint of Neapolitan tailoring in the sense that he gathered all of the tailors in the Naples area and created this whole myth; it was an art in danger of disappearing completely,” he said during a preview of the exhibit, titled “Two or Three Things I Know About Ciro.”

“Neapolitan tailoring is a very specific kind of tailoring; when it comes to the different schools of thought, there is Savile Row, which is all about redesigning the body through tailoring because it’s very structured, whereas for Neapolitan tailoring the suits are as soft as a shirt and featherweight. They mold to your body.”

Paone, a fifth generation member of a family of Italian fabric merchants who co-founded Kiton in 1956, is also the recipient of this year’s Pitti Immagine Career Award. The Italian entrepreneur has been ill for some time, with his nephews Antonio De Matteis and Antonio Paone now running the company as chief executive officer and president, respectively.

Presented in a wing on the site’s ground floor, the exhibition unfolds across six rooms themed around the values that best represent Paone’s world. The show’s modern design —based on a series of white boxes set within the palazzo’s ornate rooms packed with rich stucco relief and frescoes — offers a playful juxtaposition with its classical subject. “The idea was to create contemporary art using Kiton’s values,” said Flaccavento.

Case in point: the opening room, “Family,” in which a large Perspex box houses a classic dining table set for dinner. “For Ciro, important decisions, and boards of directors are chosen around a dining table,” the curator explained.

An installation in the next room plays on one of Paone’s favorite mottos — “the best of the best, plus one” — which emanates on loop, like a mantra, from a speaker suspended within a white box lined with spiky red foam meant to represent the idea of entering Paone’s head.

In another room, visitors can try on a Kiton jacket from a curved rack filled with 30 different sizes and two Kiton tailors on hand – measuring tapes draped around their necks – to assist.

The remaining themes are “Naples,” “Tailoring,” “Wearing” and “Quality.”

There’s also a fun interactive element to the show with Flaccavento capturing the brand’s universe through plays on the senses. A white box themed around “Tailoring,” for instance, features discarded fabric scraps scattered across its floor. A soundtrack by composer Mara Micciché built using sounds recorded in Kiton’s Naples factory fills the air, while scratch-and-sniff bands on the walls are perfumed with a metallic scent based on factory smells, created by olfactory artist Klara Ravat. “This room really expresses the factory. If I close my eyes, I can see it,” said Paone’s daughter, Maria Giovanna Paone, vice president and creative director of Kiton, moving through the space.

Concluded Flaccavento: “All of the values that Kiton stands for have, in a way, been overused by other brands. The importance of tailoring, pieces that are handmade…. over the last 10 years have been appropriated by brands, sometimes only for communications’ sake. So I preferred to skip that obviousness and work on something more atmospheric and emotional.”