Until 30 May 2013 the Textile Museum of Prato hosts “Vintage. L’irresistibile fascino del vissuto” an exhibition that explains the spreading and the evolution of second-hand clothing in costume history since Middle Age to nowadays.
On December 7th I attended the press preview of the exhibition and thanks to the curator Daniela Degl’Innocenti I took a long route through the “re-use of clothes and textiles” practice.
The exhibition begins with a small and unusual object from the Florentine area, the funeral pillow of Bishop Antonio Bellincio degli Agli made as a patchwork of wool and silk pieces from the first half of the fifteenth century. It shows how every little piece of fabric was considered important, especially if we think that already in the Middle Age the second-hand clothing market was regulated by the Rigattieri (second-hand dealer) corporation and used-clothes could reach inestimable values, due to the fabrics and the tailoring. Even noble families were used to give precious clothes legacies to religious corporations so they can reuse them to make new religious vestments or even clothes for sacred images/statues as the exhibited one.
The re-using clothes practice survives to the fashion dictates and on display there are some examples of how, already in the nineteenth century, there was a tendency to be inspired by the style of the previous centuries reshaping inherited garments according to the new silhouettes. Looking at those gold brocades from the eighteenth century re-modeled as a crinoline evening dress of the nineteenth century, it is natural to wonder if nowadays (in crisis period), we are so far from those “patching-up times”, especially if we consider the spreading of cobblers and seamstresses in our city centres.
On the upper floor, we enter the core of the exhibition with a quote taken from Maledetti Toscani by Curzio Malaparte, investigating the relationship between the practice of reuse and the history of Prato.
“In Prato ends the all history of Italy and Europe: all in Prato, in rags.”
Since the introduction of the macchina stracciatrice (mid nineteenth century) which was used to obtain regenerated wool from rags, the Tuscan city has become the worldwide collection center of used clothing and in the post-world-war II, the recovery of raw material allowed the survival of Prato textile district.
On display there are huge packages of used clothing full of “vintage treasures” carefully selected by emblematic figures such as Giovanni Masi, the pioneer of the Italian second hand market, who opened his collecting center in the 50s, still visited nowadays by scholars, stylist, costume and fashion designers for their researches.
Giovanni Masi was one of the first who understood the social importance of the second-hand phenomenon since when, in the late 60s, his stores in Vergaio (just outside Prato) were overrun by young students who bought used clothing as a sign of protest to the conformism of bourgeoisie.
The phenomenon exploded in the 70s and the mannequins on display testify the fashion themes derived from this new “street style”: ethnic and gypsy, with leather garments, sheepskin jackets, embroidered traditional costumes or printed fabrics from Africa; military style with mandarin collar jackets, parkas and military uniforms. Even high fashion designers reread these new stylistic themes, creating a new taste, close to the younger customers and giving rise to one of the most eclectic period the twentieth century.
The Nineties transformed vintage market into a mass phenomenon and no one could escape from the charm of “used patina” also developing industrial processes which reproduce the effects of the natural decay of garments.
Among the pieces on display in this section we can see an interesting group of creations by Martin Margiela
obtained by the disassembly and reassembly of vintage clothes or objects such as the necklace made of Ray Ban lenses, a top-tank made of the black leather gloves or a jacket made of the outer lining of the dressmaker’s dummies.
Another recent trend among high fashion brands is the re-edition of archival items that have marked the style of an era. It ‘s the emblematic case of the commercial success of Frida Giannini for Gucci, who year after year has reinterpreted iconic pieces such as the Jackie O bag, Bamboo Bag and fantasies of the Flora scarf or the latest Stirrup bag.
Among the other items on display there are: a series of Emilio Pucci dresses from the 60s replicated in a miniature limited edition collection of 2009; the Chanel 2.55 bag in its first original version and the current one; the Hermés Kelly bag in classic orange leather or the latest version with hemp; and finally Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, re-edited for a special line made of archive models.
|Emilio Pucci, 60s dresses, mignon re-edition 2009|
|Salvatore Ferragamo re-edition|
|Gucci Flora scarf and Bamboo bag – Alessandro Moggi Photographer|
The exhibition ends with a great corner dedicated to A.N.G.E.L.O. temporary shop. The store/archive born by the idea of Angelo Caroli, a worldwide reference in the vintage clothing field who showed us the most important pieces for sale as the iconic furs by Yves Saint Laurent or the very rare knitted garments studded with sequins by Romeo Gigli, as well as evening gowns, tuxedos and suits of every conceivable brand. He told us he began his activity by rummaging in the warehouse of Giovanni Masi looking for special items and soon he turned his passion into work, giving rise to an endless store/archive. The clothes (about 300,000) divided by epoch and themes, are daily selected and studied by worldwide fashion experts and designers who will carry on the fashion cycle.
Alessandro Masetti – The Fashion Commentator
Special thanks to: Maddalena Torricelli press office
Credits: photos 3,6,8,10,25 – Alessandro Moggi Photographer