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Marta Innocenti Ciulli

January 19, 2015

Distinguishing features: Bellissima

With an exhibition, designed by Stefano Tonchi and Maria Luisa Frisa, the Maxxi in Rome debuts in the world of fashion

Bellissima: L’Italia dell’alta moda 1945-1968 (Italian High Fashion from 1945-1968) at the Maxxi Foundation, from December 2nd to May 3rd, 2015: images, clothing, accessories, paintings, sculptures, and tapestries to document that triumphant twenty or so years of Italian fashion. Telling it with passion and expertise are director Anna Mattiolo, and two Florentine artists who are very well-known in the world of fashion. Maria Luisa Frisa, fashion curator and critic, director of the graduate program in Fashion Design and Multimedia Arts at the University IUAV of Venice, and Stefano Tonchi, editor of the American monthly W, the one with the covers most coveted by world-famous celebrities.

Why are we still talking about those extraordinary years in the beginning of Italian fashion?
Because the history of Italian fashion has not yet been studied in all its complexity. This is the period covered by the exhibition, 1945-1968, if we leave out the Sala Bianca and the related work by Giorgini in Florence, it has never really been studied in depth and in its proper perspective.
What is special about this exhibition?
It is not for us to say whether the exhibition is special. But we can say that the exhibition stages a series of garments by designers who built the identity of Italian fashion. It undoubtedly traces the trajectories of our fashion for the first time, highlighting how Italian high fashion is now considered to be the creative workshop for the great season of Made in Italy.
What does the future hold for fashion?
Fashion. In its variations of tomorrow. Fashion will also be eternally changing, but simultaneously, it is a constant presence, always an excellent interpreter of the spirit of the times.

You don’t think that we’re wallowing a bit in our history?
I would say the opposite. We use and study our history very little, and when we use it, we use it the wrong way. We limit ourselves to preserving the alleged objective facts, but we don’t have the ability to turn it into storytelling. We don’t tell stories about us, stories that use the past to help us understand the present. Something that they do very well in Paris.
Fashion in today’s society.
An economically vital phenomenon. Recognized as central to the economy of a country. But inasmuch as it is a complex cultural system, it is a phenomenon that has not really been studied and accepted. But to all intents and purposes, it is the idiom that best expresses the contemporary visual culture.
The difference between style and fashion.
Fashion is the system of concept, design, production, and communication that encompasses all the players and institutions that bring it to life. Style is the interpretation that an individual or a group gives to that phenomenon, through the use-abuse of clothing and through its assembly, to build and reflect on an identity (individual and collective).
In addition to the clothing, the exhibition is also showing tapestries, sculptures, and ceramics. How much dialogue is there between art and fashion?
The exhibition features a selection of designer pieces along with some important works by artists of that period who worked with the tailors (there are not, however, any tapestries, sculptures or ceramics). The exhibition evokes the dense network of relationships that created an extraordinarily creative period.

Is it true that it is easier to understand art than fashion?
There is no difference. I think they are outdated distinctions. Abroad surely. Art and fashion are part of the contemporary visual culture. They interpenetrate, interact, and conflict with each other. They work together in an osmotic way, sharing languages, obsessions and forms of expression. But they are two autonomous systems.
Fashion at the Maxxi. It will be the beginning of a series of events aimed at preserving the enormous wealth that Italy boasts in this sector?
Bringing fashion to the Maxxi has great symbolic value. With this, a discipline that is central to contemporary life and art becomes part of the museum dedicated to the arts of the twenty-first century. I hope to continue working with the Maxxi on these themes. But we must first approach the President, Giovanna Melandri.
With one day of power in fashion, what would you do?
I would set to work building and activating a network capable of systemizing all the museums dedicated to Italian fashion.
Do you have suggestions for those who have political, financial, cultural, and social responsibilities in this field?
Fashion should be a systematic part of the universities. Become a recognized discipline. The formation and reflection in this field must become - in an explicit and official way - part of the Italian cultural heritage. 


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