Triennale di Milano, Milan
November 25th, 2015 – March 6th, 2016
La moda raccoglie tutti gli stimoli e li rimette in gioco,
è terreno di traduzione e interpretazione,
è – nel XXI secolo –lo spazio di una cultura condivisa.
[Fashion gathers all the possible stimuli and puts them at stake once again,
it is a ground of translation and interpretation,
and – in the 21st Century – it is a space of shared culture.]
Maria Luisa Frisa, Le forme della Moda, ed. il Mulino, 2015
I have visited The New Vocabulary of Italian Fashion exhibition on last January 20th. This is the best exhibit on Italian Fashion that I have seen in a long time: it is complete and full of stimuli. If The Glamour of Italian Fashion since1945 – Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014 – was a really well built exhibit that allowed visitors to plunge into the Italian Fashion System and its evolution from the postwar period until nowadays, here we have the chance to dissect every single facet of contemporary Italian Fashion (from 1998 to 2015) and of Italian Fashion in general, intended as the product of a highly skilled craftsmanship work.
On the Triennale di Milano’s website you can find a more detailed description of how this exhibit is structured as a Vocabulary comprising 8 entries. Each entry corresponds to an Italian Fashion’s feature that characterizes and distinguishes the Italian Fashion system form any other.
At the crossroad between the entries of this new Vocabulary and the Fashion objects on display, a Narrative comes to life which tells the Fashion Universe through 5 different languages: Photography, Illustration, Traditional and Digital Publishing [Paper Magazines and Blogs] and Fashion Films.
When I entered the exhibition area I was seized with a feeling similar to that of a child entering a colourful and yummy candy shop. I would have liked to plunge immediately into every exhibition room and make the most of my visit by reading every single object label.
But I stood strong and I started my visit trying to just enjoy the Photography and Fashion Films sections, that you find in front of you when you enter the exhibition.
Here the deep relationship between Fashion and Art is clearly shown. In a captivating mise-en-abyme, the selected photographs offer and artistic portray of Fashion items, which are artworks themselves.
Whatching these photos I wished I had one of them in my sitting room and suddenly I understood the actual artistic merit of all those Vogue Italia editorials that I had tried to fully appreciate before this moment, often with no success – a work of art loses its magic when printed on paper.
In the same exhibition space, I revelled in the panoply of magazines on display: underground Fashion magazines of all sorts offering a a wide, witty and irriverent portrait of contemporary Italian Fashion and Art Scene. If nowadays the bigger brands choose the web and TV to communicate their brand image and heritage, these Italian self-published magazines seem to have settled into a niche of the publishing scene that allows them to tell their readers a different Fashion story. One made up of small luxury businesses, highly skilled craftsmen and a constant attention to doing things beautifully. In fact, Beauty in all its forms is the object of these magazines’ narrative.
I wish I could read them all!
After this big plounge into Photography and Publishing I watched some of the Fashion films selected for the Imagery in motion section. Here, again, I was positively struck by the manifest artistic value of Fashion. But yet another feature of what I call the “Theory of Contemporary Fashion” is stated clearly by these films: Fashion brands want to offer their own reading of life to their customers so as to make them live an experience that goes beyond the product, embracing a peculiar way of inhabiting the world.
I knew this all too well, since I often translate the training documents that Fashion Houses send to their points of sale all around the world in order to train their sales assistants to deliver an engaging experience to their customers. But these Fashion films surprised me, anyway, since they are a powerful statement that touches the spectator at a very emotional level, conquering her with an inspiring vision that could possibly trigger a change in her life, thus getting her like that brand more than any other.
The rest of the exhibition is just amazing. It shows the very best of Contemporary Italian Fashion by putting its highly artistic signature and skilled craftsmanship under the spotlight. The speech that the whole exhibit builds using the entries of this New Vocabulary of Italian Fashion tells an Italian Fashion System that stills cultivates the way of working of Haute Couture intended as a precious and exclusive realm, which I personally dare to difine as a “galaxy far far away” from ready-to-wear.
In fact, the entire exhibition – which showcases the work of designers and brands that are not yet as famous as e.g. Maison Valentino, Gucci, Prada and the likes but that are equally centered on handmade work and painstaking attention to detail – looks like an answer ahead of time to the cry of disappointment uttered by BOF’s Angelo Flaccavento in his article “Couture’s Melancholia” published on BOF at the end of last Paris Haute Couture Spring 16 Fashion Week. Here, Flaccavento points out
“[today] beauty, dreams, poetry, impossibly high craftsmanship and luxury that trascends the passing of time […]are actually more relevant than ever, precisely because they are a testament to mankind’s historical evolution from darkness towards greater consciousness, knowledge and expression” but, he continues, “most of these qualities were actually lacking in many [Paris] couture shows”. Why? Bercause, according to him, “Today’s couture is dangerously similar to ready-to-wear” since, thanks to the new technologies, “the high-end ready-to-wear has been pushed to ‘demi-couture’ levels”.
Well, the Triennale exhibit tells us that nothing is lost. It still exists a place where beauty and poetry are translated by hand into garments and accessories, interpreted by fine textiles still produced by family-run businesses. Such a wonderful place is Italy and you are really lucky because during next Milan Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016 (February 24th-29th) you will still have the opportunity to “read” The New Vocabulary of Italian Fashion and actually touch the (he)art of Contemporary Italian Fashio with your hands (yes, the items on display can be – gently – touched).
I hope you will enjoy it!
For more images of the exhibition, you can visit my Instagram account. I will post new photos through next week. Moreover, on my Instagram you can discover my #100ItalianFashionWords project (#100ITfw). I will tell you more about it here on my blog on March 11th, but you can already take part to the conversation @parole_di_moda_translations.