ITALIANA. Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001

The carefree 70s looks of Walter Albini, the retro Gucci G bags that made the brand explode, the unforgettable Fiorucci cherub tee shirts that were a sign of the 90s and the baroque ensembles of the late Gianni Versace… They are all there – pieces that tell the intricate history of Italian fashion in the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the current millennium are on display at “ITALIANA. Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001.”

ITALIANA: Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001 exhibition in Milan. Photo by Anna Palermo for NOWFASHION.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the exhibit (open until May 6) is that most of the visitors have lived, and understood, at least a portion of the historical moments unveiled in nine baroque rooms of Milan's Palazzo Reale. 

Produced and promoted by the City of Milan and the Camera Nazionale della Moda, ITALIANA kicked off the Milan ready-to-wear shows last month. Around 130 looks from Italian brands and designers like Giorgio Armani, Romeo Gigli, Gianfranco Ferré, and Krizia spanned nine halls inside Milan’s Palazzo Reale.

Co-curators Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief of W, and Maria Luisa Frisa decided to tell the story of how Italian fashion has evolved by dividing the exhibit into sections dubbed: Identity, Democracy, Logomania, Diorama, Project Room, Bazaar, Post-Production, Global, and The Italy of Objects. History went hand-in-hand with art and magazines from reminding us of the sexual revolution to the advent of the fashion conglomerates and events like 9/11, which all changed the trajectory of the industry forever.  

Maria Luisa Frisa. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

NOWFASHION chatted with Maria Luisa Frisa, a fashion icon, educator, and one of the most famous fashion curators in the world. In addition to ITALIANA, she also curated the Gucci Garden Galleria and Salvatore Ferragamo’s “Between Art and Fashion.”

I remember 2001. Milan was so different, there were no iPhones, no stress of social media, and it really seemed like fashion’s heyday. How was it for you?

The year 2001 is a symbol. It is also when the Twin Towers fell and the world’s equilibrium changed and a new point of view was formed. It was also the year that large luxury groups started to buy Italian brands. The euro also came along one year later. And that also changed the equilibrium of Italian fashion.

ITALIANA: Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001 exhibition in Milan. Photo by Anna Palermo for NOWFASHION.

How do you feel about the new creative minds that are shaping fashion and the new emerging talent that has arisen from Milan?

Italy is really demonstrating that it is an author of fashion and that it is a reference for the whole world. There are people in their 40s like Alessandro Michele that are the designers of the moment. Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior and Riccardo Tisci of Burberry. There are also CEOs that are Italians that have made a name for themselves abroad. There is also this new generation forming here in Milan that includes Pierpaolo Piccioli, as well as Marco de Vincenzo, Fausto Puglisi… and Arthur Arbesser (who is not from here, but works here) and they all have so much personality. The list really goes on, but it is logical that Italian style is different.

How is Italian fashion being appreciated in the world? Do people think this is where the origins of fashion lie?

I don’t think that we need to change anything to get to know the history of Italian fashion better. What we have forgotten to do is tell our story. We have forgotten to tell the story of our identity and qualities to define what Italian fashion really is.


See the pictures from ITALIANA's launch event here.