Complemented by the elegant domed rooms of Palazzo Strozzi, the futuristic exhibition is true to its title: ControModa is a collection of clothing from the world’s most revolutionary designers who have strived to challenge and question every accepted aspect of fashion and style. From the silhouette to the type of fabric, from the proportions to the colour schemes, every decision, seemingly, has purpose and a statement behind it.
The exhibition offers a glimpse at a side of fashion that is not obvious as one flips through the pages of a magazine. Next to each piece is a flat-screen television displaying an explanation of the specific nuances and details—and the designer’s purposes in using them. For example, we learn that the distressed look is used to emphasise the beauty of the human form, and that Giorgio Armani’s androgynous trouser suit shows the shift in modern, liberal thinking towards social equality. Those browsing the windows of via Tournabuoni may not have ever noticed these powerful statements shouting at them.
Scattered throughout the exhibit are the comments of six internationally known fashion critics: Brubach, Casadio, Ferré, Marzotto, Menkes and Sozzani. In addition to adding a personal touch, their comments provide yet more food for thought. The critics encourage us to view fashion as a continuous process, feeding off ideas from the past, dissecting and analysing them, and then combining them with new modern ideas and technical advancements.
This analytical process is highly evident in many of the pieces. Every detail has been designed with purpose. For example, many garments seem half-finished or prototypes, with the raw but intricate and meticulously made under-structure exposed at the surface. Jean-Paul Gautier’s reversible jacket is one such piece: the technical catch-stitching used for the interfacing on the outside is a challenge to the accepted method of construction. Other pieces suggest the designer’s questions about components or materials: Why not make a dress from paper? Or metal? Or shoulder-pads? Or swimsuits?
Technical developments of recent years have opened a new range of opportunities for designers. Issey Miyake takes full advantage of this with a very modern garment called A-POC, an acronym for A-Piece-Of-Cloth. Made in one piece on a computerised loom, it has no need for needle and thread. Another popular Miyake technique is permanent heat-pleating, which creates such intense pleats that the garment shrinks three times during the making. The technique is used to create elegant translucent gowns that appear to be works of art—like sculptures with deliberately distorted silhouettes that contradict the natural shape and create optical illusions.
Thierry Mugler also plays tricks with the mind with his ‘Anatomical Suit’. With a space-age theme, it aims to imitate a computer-simulation of a human body with luminous contour lines, making the suit seem more like a robot than a garment.
It is difficult to describe the powerful aura that radiates from such a collection. Presented in unnerving life-like poses of suspended motion, the pieces almost have personalities of their own.
Just when you think you have seen it all, another surprise awaits. The last room contains a special collection, under the label ‘Pleats Please’, created by Issey Miyake for a German dance company. Not only can you feast your eyes on this rainbow of colours, but you can try on the garments and examine them as you wish!
Leaving the exhibition, now that you know how much your clothes can say about you, you might wonder about the statement you are making when you slip them over your head. You might think more carefully in the morning before you chuck on your jeans and jacket and rush out the door!
Florence Pettit from Sussex, England, is taking a year off to travel and take language courses in Florence before going to university to study French and Italian. She has always had a passion for various forms of design, from operatic costume to high fashion, and hopes to move into this field after completing her studies.