This exhibition charts the paths followed by Italian fashion as it forged an international identity and garnered fame. We have selected 45 pieces belonging to collectors Enrico Quinto and Paolo Tinarelli, who hold a collection of some 6,000 garment and accessory items that has become a source of inspiration for many fashion houses. “In this respect, the collection is closely integrated with a production system for which the past is vital,” say the collectors.
Curated by historian João Braga, the exhibition is divided into three sections – designers, creations and events – that helped Italian fashion develop its profile from the 1950s to the present day. Braga notes that it was French influence that initially prompted local fashion designers to develop their mature work of the 1950s. Contemporary Italian fashion officially dates back to 1951, when Marquis Giovanni Battista Giorgini held his fashion show in Florence to target U.S. buyers. At that time, according to the collectors, a system was organized to promote Made in Italy products to the press and buyers all over the world.
“In the postwar period, (…) in his quest to recover femininity lost during the war, Dior defined a new zeitgeist fashion he called the New Look. This aesthetic determined fashionable taste for the late 1940s and most of the 50s,” says Braga. This period is the focus for the first part of the exhibition showing production by Emilio Schuberth, Sorelle Fontana, Roberto Capucci and Emilio Pucci.
The second part covers the 1970s and 80s when new designers joined them to update Italian fashion by associating it with design and industrializing their prêt-à-porter or ready-to-wear production: Valentino, the Fendi label, Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferré, Franco Moschino, Gianni Versace, Mila Schön, Elio Fiorucci, Missoni et al. For the curator, these designers – more particularly those made for young people – were influenced by the somewhat transgressive, fun-loving and pop-culture driven English fashion of the 1960s.
The third part of the exhibition spans the period from the late 20th century to the present, including the growing stature of longstanding traditional leather-goods houses that had been trading before 1951, such as Prada (from 1913) and Gucci (1921). It was in this period, Braga adds, that Italian fashion recognized its image in an aspect which had historically always been part of its own particular identity – namely its pizazz. Braga concludes: “[Hence] the rise of a new taste associated with the overstatements, exoticisms, luxurious exuberance and technical refinement of creations by labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Donatella Versace, Roberto Cavalli and Fausto Puglisi, in addition to the Prada and Gucci.”
By surveying the last 70 years of Italian fashion, the exhibition brings out its genuine nature and true-to-life forging of the country's fashion identity. “Italian apparel fashion owes its vigor to taste combined with intensive uses and combinations of colors, to the widespread employment of fabric prints, the appreciation of local craftwork tradition and the pursuit of new materials and textile technologies,” adds Braga.