As a longtime fan of Ossie Clark and British fashion, I was delighted to be able to attend the exhibition organized by the Sozzani Foundation in Milan under the sponsorship of CNMI (National Chamber for Italian Fashion). The exhibition had previously been held at the Textile Museum of Prato, which took part in the exhibition project as well.
“Mr & Mrs Clark” is the first exhibition in Italy dedicated to Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, the creative couple who were among the leading figures of British fashion in one of its most prosperous periods, the 1960s and ’70s decades. The exhibition chronicles their artistic journey and explores the brilliance of Celia’s designs, with prints inspired by nature and avant-garde art; Ossie’s talent and mastery of pattern-making and cutting enabled the creation of feminine and sensual clothes.
In the exhibition space at Fondazione Sozzani, it is also possible to admire a number of photos depicting Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell together, as the two were united in both their work and personal lives. Their artistic journey has also been documented in the book Mr & Mrs Clark, which chronicles the artistic and personal partnership of the two designers through essays and interviews, enhancing the beauty of Ossie Clark’s creations with sketchbooks and period photos. In the preface, Carla Sozzani wrote: “Ossie and Celia are also the story of a special alchemy, one of the earliest examples of creative couples who worked together to complement each other in total harmony. Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark are among the famous couples where one can never tell where one’s creativity ended and the other’s began.”
Federico Poletti, curator of the exhibition, also pointed out that “Ossie’s shapes and cuts would not have had the same impact without Celia’s prints”, which is why the two designers’ work is presented together.
The dresses on display come from a variety of sources, such as the private collection of acclaimed costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini and that of Lauren Lepire, founder of the Los Angeles vintage store Timeless Vixen, as well as from the archives of Celia Birtwell and the Clark family.
I have always been interested in environmental issues, and I deeply appreciate every initiative aimed at educating and raising awareness about environmental protection and the preservation of the different species that inhabit our world.
Being in Savona for a few days, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Archeoplastica had organized the temporary museum of beached waste at the city’s Priamar Fortress.
Archeoplastica is a national environmental awareness project founded by Enzo Suma, a nature guide from Ostuni (Italian region of Apulia) and founder of an association actively involved in organizing waste collection days on the beach. From these recovery initiatives, a large number of stranded plastic objects dating back to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and the following decades have emerged, testifying to how much plastic pollutes when abandoned in the environment. Then Archeoplastica became a virtual museum with its own website, giving rise to virtuous plastic recovery initiatives at other Italian beaches and resulting in a series of exhibitions that have also been covered in depth by Italian television networks and national newspapers. Thanks to all this, today Archeoplastica is a very active community on social media that, through the voices of many people, reconstructs and collects the sometimes incredible stories hidden behind the objects that are collected on the beach after a long journey.
The temporary exhibition at the Priamar Fortress represents Archeoplastica’s first display in Liguria, and has been titled “50 Years of Beached Waste: Vices and Virtues of Plastic between Product Design, Advertising and Eco-Sustainability”. The exhibition aims not only to showcase a series of exhibits accompanied by a wealth of information and videos, but also to historicize the role of plastic by highlighting its vices and virtues, as well as its ability to transform itself through recycling or to reinvent itself into bioplastics appropriate to our lifestyles and consumption.
I visited the exhibition last Saturday with my mother (who remembers many of the objects displayed because they date back to her childhood) and it was incredibly interesting to be able to learn the story behind these objects that emerged from the sea, showcased in the light-flooded halls of the Fortress. I noticed that it is a particularly popular exhibition also because of the strategic location of the Priamar, which is always visited by tourists from the cruise that docks in Savona on a weekly basis.
It was difficult to select pictures for this article because there is a considerable amount of objects displayed, including Yomo Yogurt, a soccer ball, bottles of bleach and Vetril (an Italian brand of glass cleaners), presented as museum exhibits. Below I have chosen five photos I took of the objects found on the beaches, with a brief explanation along with each photo:
1) Caffè Suerte, 1971 (Carovigno Beach) & Cif, 1970s (Salento, 2020): A 1971 advertisement showed that the cost of Caffè Suerte was 570 Italian liras on offer, just as it is written on this tin returned from the sea. Many coffee cans like this one have been found over the years, highlighting that in the late 1960s and early 1970s it was a big seller. The most dated among the ones found would cost 270 liras; in those days, Caffè Suerte was also sold in collectible containers bearing various figures on the graphics. These ones also emerge ashore from time to time, not always intact, which makes you think about the fact that all the plastic that has ended up in the sea still exists since it was first assembled.
Cif is one of the best-known brands most widely used for kitchen cleaning over the decades; this product was used in Italy in the mid-1970s (there was also a similar product in France). As with many old, white-colored garbage, one often gets the impression that it is recent, but if one looks in detail at the dark part of the graphic on the plastic, one can see countless scratches caused by the impact on the reefs. In the 1970s the shape of the cap was an inverted cone, as in the case of the object in question, while in the 1980s it became cylindrical. The shape of the bottle, on the other hand, remained the same for many years. Both products were found on the beaches of Apulia.
2) Barbapapa, 1974 (Ostuni Beach, 2020): One of the most symbolic finds by Archeoplastica is a 1974 Fabianplastica Barbapapa filled with encrustations created by marine organisms. Found in December 2020 on a beach on the Ostuni coast, it looks just like a work of art created by the sea. This find will probably be familiar to adults and children alike because even to this day the Barbapapa cartoon is broadcast on TV. The toy was initially made of soft rubber (which after fifty years has become very hard) and when pressed there was a whistle that sounded at the base. Ironically, Barbapapa is perhaps the first ecologist cartoon, and the found character is precisely that of Barbazoo, the naturalist who defended plants and animals. This Barbapapa has been displayed during several major events, such as the National Geographic exhibition, and can also be found reproduced in 3D on the Archeoplastica virtual museum site.
In October 2021 I attended the first major solo exhibition in Milan dedicated to the renowned artist and photographer Mario Testino. The exhibition was structured into two parts; I was able to attend only the first one because I was very busy with work by the time the second one was available for the public to see (it enclosed a body of intimate snapshots and authentic moments from the photographer’s life with some people that have positively influenced his career).
The gallery presented some of Mario Testino’s most significant works in large format, including a body of unpublished works, available in new formats and editions, for a total of fifty works carefully selected by the gallery directors and Testino himself.
I found this exhibition very interesting and insightful because it showcased a variety of iconic and previously unseen shots of the photographer’s muses, like Sienna Miller and Cara Delevingne. Mario Testino is one of the most famous and talented fashion photographers in the world. Peruvian-born, he started his career in London in the 1970s, when he began to collaborate with magazines like Vogue, Glamour, GQ and Vanity Fair. Over the years, he has worked with known and talented fashion designers like Versace, Gucci, Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. When I was a teenager, I really loved the campaigns he did with Burberry at the time, especially the campaign shoot with Emma Watson for Burberry Fall/Winter 2009/10. I also own his book “Diana: Princess of Wales”, which he published with Taschen in 2006, following the eponymous exhibition at Kensington Palace in 2005 (my grandma loved Princess Diana and the book was one of her favorite).
Mario Testino has also taken numerous portraits of international stars like Naomi Campbell, Julia Roberts, Madonna and Gisele Bündchen. Some of these portraits were included in the “Mario Testino: Unfiltered” exhibition in Milan, with other unreleased shots.
There was also a section dedicated to the photographer’s love for Italy, with a selection of works from the recent “Ciao” publishing project in collaboration with Taschen. Around the time of the exhibition, Mario Testino said: “Discovering Italy was a powerful experience that captured my imagination. I felt a deep connection with everything I saw around me. I loved the people, the landscape, the architecture and the fact that art and beauty were naturally, simply part of life.”
I have always loved visiting London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and it is one of my all-time favorite museums because every season they hold great fashion retrospectives that are usually displayed in a very sophisticated and scenic way, like “Cristóbal Balenciaga” in 2017 and “Fashioned from Nature” in 2018 (also, it’s impossible not to mention Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” in 2015, one of the most popular and successful retrospectives ever held at the museum). I am grateful to have been able to attend some of these exhibitions throughout the years; “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” has definitely been my favorite so far.
Since it had already been showcased at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the exhibition was very much hyped even before opening at the V&A and it did not disappoint expectations. According to MF Fashion, “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” had a record number of spectators, selling almost 600,000 tickets in seven months. I was very lucky to be able to attend the exhibition because it was extended until September 2019 so I got to see it in the month of June during a trip to London.
The exhibition presented about 200 rare Haute Couture garments, starting from the birth of the House of Dior in 1946 and tracing the evolution of Dior’s signature style over the years. It allowed visitors to examine various illustrations, photographs, videos, magazines, accessories, vintage perfumes and make-up, for a total of about 500 objects extracted from the immense Dior Archives. It basically turned out to be one of London’s biggest cultural events in 2019 and I was happy to become a V&A member on the day I attended the exhibition. One of the first pieces displayed was the iconic Bar Suit, which is part of the V&A’s permanent collection, since it was gifted to the museum by the Maison Dior in 1960.
Christian Dior showcased his first haute couture collection in February 1947 at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris. The designs offered a great alternative to the masculine style of women’s fashion after World War II and they were widely praised and highly acclaimed by the press, as Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Carmel Snow told the designer: “Your dresses have such a new look!”
The term New Look was chosen to name the collection and its two silhouettes, Corolle (featuring full skirts similar to flower petals) and En 8 (hip-hugging pencil skirts). The Bar suit was inspired by the bar at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and became the symbol of the New Look, creating a new fashionable silhouette that was unprecedented for the time; the rounded shoulders and the flowing, elongated shapes made to highlight the waist, along with the voluminous corolla skirts, helped reshape women’s bodies by bringing back feminine beauty and reviving sensuality. At the same time, garments from the past such as corsets and guêpières were brought back into vogue so Dior found itself at the center of a fashion revolution thanks to his innovative spirit. The New Look designs on the walls of the V&A were presented in a majestical way, followed by a section that highlighted the looks from 1947 to 1957 that defined this revolutionary fashion era and a section dedicated to Christian Dior’s love for Great Britain.
The exhibition was divided in eleven different theme sections; the first one started with Christian Dior’s earlier years and was followed by the New Look section that showcased his groundbreaking approach to fashion.
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