For stars, those who follow the stars on red carpets, and those who appreciate impressive design and interesting art, the Frist Center is offering an exhibit and collaborative events focusing on fashion design.
Italian Style: Fashion since 1945, an elegant exhibition, chronicles the birth and growth of the Italian fashion industry from the post-World War II recovery years to the present day. Based on new archival research, the exhibition explores the development of both womens- and menswear and highlights key designers and the outstanding techniques, materials and expertise for which Italy has become renowned.
Organized chronologically, Italian Style charts an economic history of how Italy’s traditional use of high-quality materials and artisanal craftsmanship developed into a global industry. More than 90 garments and accessories by leading Italian fashion houses, including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Pucci, Valentino and Versace are on display. Among these objects are ball gowns shown next to their original hand-drawn designs; shoes, including an ornate pair of Dolce & Gabbana stiletto ankle boots; handbags; jewelry; personal letters; maps; photography; and archival footage.
“The exhibition features dresses and suits worn by movie stars and directors, said Frist Center curator Trinita Kennedy, “and even an exquisite Bulgari tremblant brooch of yellow diamonds acquired by Elizabeth Taylor while she was in Rome filming Cleopatra and beginning her passionate affair with Richard Burton. The casual informality of Italian fashion and its graceful nonchalance—what Italians call sprezzatura—were infectious.” A 1949 mint green Vespa—similar to the Vespa featured in the film, Roman Holiday—is included in the exhibition and serves as a playful nod to the period’s zeitgeist.
The Frist has shown Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita thus far in its “Italian Style on Celluloid” series, featuring “some of the most iconic films from the 20th century with sharply dressed stars, glamorous locations and a very Italian brand of cool nonchalance,” according to the exhibit’s organizers. Roman Holiday (shown earlier in July) featured Audrey Hepburn navigating the streets of Rome on a Vespa and Hepburn wearing fashions by Oscar-winning designer Edith Head, in collaboration with Italian couturieres. The Frist offered La Dolce Vita in June; the Humphrey Bogart/Ava Gardner classic, The Barefoot Contessa, is the August feature (August 14 at 7:00 p.m. in the Frist Center auditorium).
“In the era of La Dolce Vita (1960), Italian style enhanced the glamour and mystique of movie stars filming on the streets of Rome,” said Kennedy. “Audrey Hepburn, Marcello Mastroianni and Elizabeth Taylor were seen impeccably dressed in Valentino dresses, Brioni suits, and Bulgari jewels, and everyone, including the Kennedys and Truman Capote’s swans, aspired to look like them.”
“In the 1970s, the ‘luxury ready-to-wear’ fashions of Giorgio Armani, Krizia, and Missoni became the rage [as] the popularity of couture gave way to enthusiasm for manufactured fashion,” Kennedy said. “By the 1980s, the fashion cognoscenti had embraced designer ready-to-wear as a new fashion language. This is when Milan emerged as the fashion capital of Italy. Designers such as Giorgio Armani, Missoni and Gianni Versace offered luxurious clothes that previously had been possible only when made by hand. In the 1990s, advertising images cemented Italian fashion’s association with the international jet set, and beautifully crafted leather accessories were more desirable than ever. Brand recognition became so strong that such companies as Dolce & Gabana, Fendi, Prada and Versace developed cult followings.”
“Italian Style concludes with a look at the next generation of talent, including couture by Giambattista Valli, bold ready-to-wear from Fausto Puglisi and work from Valentino’s new designer duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli,” said Kennedy. Two representatives of Nashville’s “next generation of talent” in fashion design—Amanda Valentine (VALENTINE/VALENTINE founder and designer and Project Runway finalist) and Mclaine Richardson (designer/owner, Margaret Ellis Jewelry)—will present at an artists’ forum on July 23 at 6:30 p.m. On August 27 at 6:30 p.m. Phillip Nappi (co-founder and creative director of Peter Nappi, Inc.) and Susan Sherrick (founder and designer, S.E. Sherrick Fine Leather Goods) will present. Indeed, Italian style has been affiliated with Italian families—including the Nappi family, who now have headquarters in Nashville (In 1904, Peter Nappi emigrated from southern Italy to the United States, bringing with him a family tradition in shoemaking dating back more than a century).
Italian Style affords visitors many opportunities to explore designs carrying the names affiliated with Italian style and Nashville style and how these designs shape what we have come to know and are noticing about the art of fashion. Another interesting option on the schedule of events affiliated with the Italian Style exhibit is the upcoming lecture, “Stylish Cities: Fashion and a Sense of Place—from Milan to Nashville,” presented by Karen Elson, British top model and singer-songwriter, and Libby Callaway, fashion media professional and stylist. Elson has walked the runways of some of Italy’s greatest houses, while Callaway’s creative vision has helped put Nashville’s burgeoning fashion scene on the map. The lecture takes place on August 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Those who would like to take a tour of the exhibit with Trinita Kennedy, the curator of the Italian Style (and make a memorable lunch hour!) may do so at noon on Thursday, July 30, or participate in “Art after Dark,” a more in-depth look at one of the works of art in the exhibit by by assistant curator Ginny Soenksen in a presentation and open discussion on July 24, at 6:30 p.m.
The Frist Fridays series is celebrating personal style in conjunction with the Italian Style exhibit as well. On July 30, the Long Players will bring the style icon David Bowie’s music to life by performing Ziggy Stardust. On August 28, Those Darlins offer their edgy and seductive sound and personal style. Al “Piper” Green and the Hard Times performed the best of Memphis soul in traditional blues style in June.
Curated by Sonnet Stanfill, curator of 20th-century and contemporary fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Italian Style will be on view in the Frist Center’s Ingram Gallery until September 7, 2015.
Admission to the Italian Style exhibit and related events are free for Frist members; events are free with gallery admission to other visitors. For more information, go to fristcenter.org or call 615-233-3340.