“Italiana – Narrating Italian History through Fashion, 1971-2001”, curated by Maria Luisa Frisa and Stefano Tonchi, will be open until May 6th 2018 at Milan’s Palazzo Reale. The exhibition showcases a crucial thirty-year period for Made in Italy fashion, during which the style that has become one of our country’s points of excellence was born and developed. The itinerary starts in 1971, when Walter Albini chose Milan for his first fashion show, creating a watershed between haute couture and prêt-à-porter; it ends in 2001, when the Twin Tower attack in New York marks the tragic beginning of a new century – a century that would transform fashion into a global phenomenon with deep changes compared to what it had been in the previous decades.
However, and despite its title, the exhibition does not follow a chronological order and instead dedicates nine rooms to different themes, with clothes and accessories displayed in relation to great works by artists ranging from Michelangelo Pistoletto to the irreverent Maurizio Cattelan. The image chosen for “Italiana”’s poster also speaks volumes about Italy’s identity: a photo by Oliviero Toscani from “Unilook. Lui e lei alla stessa maniera”, published on the 1971-1972 December/January issue of “L’Uomo Vogue”. The photo shows a man and a woman dressed in the same way, with the same hairstyle and even the same pose and attitude. It represented the shift that was happening in fashion at the time, as well as in society, for men and women: feminist victories, men’s new approach to gender stereotypes, non-conformism and freedom of expression. Today, that image reminds us once more that fashion is not just about the clothes we wear, but about expressing and quoting the aesthetics and the society of our times.