Curator and critic Maria Luisa Frisa on Fashion as a Project

June 15, 2020

As part of Triennale Decameron, curator and critic Maria Luisa Frisa talked with Paola Nicolin, art and architecture historian and one of the curators of the Triennale Public Program, about the Italian Fashion System and the role of Milan after the pandemic.

“You have considered magazines a tool since the 1980s, with ‘We Staff’ before and with the ‘Dune’ project now. I would like to start by speaking about your vision of the fashion system, which has also used magazines as a channel for storytelling, research and experimentation. What do you think of these two projects and how has the role of magazines changed?”

Paola Nicolin

“Magazines are a way to express yourself, to create projects together with others. ‘We Staff’ magazine was founded in the eighties in the outskirts of Florence, a fertile ground where many things happened back then, from avant-garde theatre to fashion trends, stores and clubs. Provincial kids felt a desire to transcend. So, magazines were still a tool for information.”

Maria Luisa Frisa

"Westuff" cover, June-August1986

“Differently, ‘Dune’ is a way to get involved and engage people; it was created in an academic setting as a result of work on the fashion culture to give prominence to fashion studies. We wanted to use the magazine as a tool to communicate, inform and make it clear that the academy is a free place where you can make everyone reflect about anything.”

Maria Luisa Frisa

"Dune" issue 001, Dark Room. Photo by Think Work Observe

“I would really like to talk with you about the ability to thematise. You have often preferred a thematic and non-monographic approach to your exhibitions. In your opinion, how important is it to focus on fashion issues?”

Paola Nicolin

“I think it’s because of my habit of thinking ‘in maps’. I see themes as a way to be open, discuss, create something that you feel deeply and that needs to be said at that moment. Fashion is the discipline of modernity and has the ability to speak of the contrasts and contacts of its time. Fashion is the only circular system: it feeds on the past to build the present. Thematic exhibitions allow you to create a landscape that makes people understand the actual impact of fashion on society and that fashion is often underestimated as a symbol of our time.”

Maria Luisa Frisa

Italiana. L’Italia vista dalla moda 1971-2001. Sala Identità. Photo by Francesco de Luca – Commesso fotografo
Italiana. L’Italia vista dalla moda 1971-2001. Sala Identità. Photo by Francesco de Luca – Commesso fotografo
Memos. A proposito della moda in questo millennio. Museo Poldi Pezzoli, salone dorato: Christian Dior Haute Couture FW 2019-20; Giorgio Armani SS 1994. Photo Francesco de Luca – Commesso fotografo
Memos. A proposito della moda in questo millennio. Museo Poldi Pezzoli, salone dorato: Christian Dior Haute Couture FW 2019-20; Giorgio Armani SS 1994. Photo Francesco de Luca – Commesso fotografo

“You have thought a lot about the role of creative directors over the years. How do you think this professional position, so exposed today, can gather all the input from the outside, especially at this moment, and bring it to the fashion world?”

Paola Nicolin

“I have always been interested in making people understand how some fashion-related jobs have changed: the tailor, the fashion designer (the Italian word is stilista and can never be perfectly translated into other languages) and the creative director now. This job was created in the nineties. Tom Ford can be considered the first of them, when he worked for Gucci. Over the years, their role has become increasingly important, especially when fashion brands started to be purchased by big luxury groups and the position of founders disappeared. Creative directors have the responsibility to bring together the brand’s heritage, their personal vision and the need to interpret the brand’s present and future by building complex imagery.”

Maria Luisa Frisa

"Domus Moda", aprile 1985. Pierre Restany, "Arte come moda"

“You have worked extensively on the Gucci archive and have often promoted a concept of fashion as a project – Italian fashion in particular. Can the archive be a tool for enhancing a specific identity or economy?”

Paola Nicolin

“The archive is a unique place, not only as a way to enhance some features but also to boost creativity, and plays a key role for fashion brands. It is also an important tool to help Creative Directors understand the brand, to gather the brand’s history and to claim brand-specific elements. For instance, Bottega Veneta can claim the intellectual property of its signature weave pattern through its archive.”

Maria Luisa Frisa

Bellissima. L’Italia dell’alta moda 1945-1968. Atelier Germana Marucelli in Milan: fashion show of the Optical line, spring/summer 1965; dresses with kinetic motifs designed with the collaboration of Getulio Alviani. In the environment works by Paolo Scheggi and Enrico Castellani. Also present at the fashion show were Lucio Fontana and Gillo Dorfles. 1964. Photo by Ada Ardessi © Isisuf, Milan

“What do you think are the advantages of Milan compared to Paris, if we consider fashion as cultural production?”

Paola Nicolin

“Italy has many 'fashion cities'. The book Bellissima. L’Italia dell’alta moda 1945-1968 was a journey through Italy’s fashion cities – Florence, Turin, Milan. In my opinion, there is a need to specify a place for dialogue with other cities worldwide and Milan has all the tradition that it takes to be that place.”

“I believe that every city has its own peculiarities and there is a geography of the fashion system. Milan is certainly part of that geography, but it needs to strengthen the cultural production related to fashion. I am thinking, for example, about the Prada Foundation and I agree with Richard Martin when he said that fashion and art are both part of the contemporary visual culture. Milan can certainly offer some incredible spaces and it is home to many of today’s most influential fashion designers. I think Milan should not adopt an attitude of defiance towards other fashion-related cities, but it should instead be a strong place for dialogue with other cities.”

Maria Luisa Frisa

Critic and curator Maria Luisa Frisa is a full professor at the Iuav University of Venice, where she directs the course in Fashion Design and Multimedia Arts. She investigates the Italian and international fashion system through publications, exhibitions and projects.

Credits

Cover photo Bellissima. L’Italia dell’alta moda 1945-1968 Mirella Petteni con un modello Jole Veneziani lungo i navigli per un servizio pubblicato su «Settimo Giorno» del 27 novembre 1958. Foto Ugo Mulas © Eredi Ugo Mulas

We remind that at the entrance of Triennale Milano you will be required to show the Green Pass together with an identity document.

Visit Triennale in safety
Sitemap