What struck me about Italy was the plethora of fashion ‘brand’ museums. When I think of fashion museums, I think of the Costume Institute at the Met, Musée Galliera in Paris, or even the Chicago History Museum in my hometown with occasional fashion exhibits. The concept of couture houses having their own museum was entirely new to me. I had a chance to go to three in Italy and I LOVED every one of them, and it was such a nice break from those overcrowded museums. Here is my recap!
Our first stop was at the Fendi Headquarters in Rome. We took a train ride to get there, and let me tell you that it was in the middle of nowhere. We had hard time finding the actual entrance to the headquarters, too, because there is only one tiny door that you can enter through – the rest of the building is gated. When you arrive, you have to be buzzed in by a guard — the Fendi Headquarters is very well protected, and for good reasons! The actual building is nicknamed the ‘Square Colosseum’ for its square architecture, and was actually initiated by Benito Mussolini to be the emblem of fascism around the globe. Hmmm…Fascism and fashion…That could be a title of an interesting exhibit 😉 You heard it here first!
This massive building has 8 floors but only the first floor is open to visitors. Don’t be disappointed because there’s enough to keep you entertained on just one level. You start with the maze of animal furs. Every wall is adorned with an array of multicolored furs plastered around it; the room is very dim, and you follow the furs until you reach the end of the room. Get ready, because right after you finish the maze, a curtain is whisked open for you to find a completely-lit mirrored room full of colorful Fendi bag bugs hanging from the ceiling. Little Karlitos with sunnies EVERYWHERE. So visually dazzling and vibrant. Let your eyes adjust because this is just out of this world!
The remaining rooms were workshops with actual designers working on and stitching designs. Other rooms had mannequins outrageously clad in fur, fringe, and sequins. Other rooms had furs placed in an array of different shapes and patterns. Lots of fur, I know…But the best part? NO ONE WAS THERE. We had the entire floor to ourselves. I was shamelessly snapping photos without anyone judging (besides the skeptical security guards ;)). This was hands down my favorite museum out of the three that I visited.
Moving on to Gucci in Florence! You could tell they really try to make this experience exclusive because this museum has an in-house collection only available to those who visit the museum, meaning it has never been seen outside of the museum and the pieces can only be purchased there. Think Gucci loafers and Dionysus bags we’ve been seeing the past few seasons, but with colors and patterns exclusive to the museum goers. One more thing: they have a white Cadillac Seville in classic Gucci print! So cool…
Finally, Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, also in Florence. Both the Gucci and Ferragamo museums are conveniently located within walking distances from the Uffizi Gallery. If you are ever in this area, make sure to hit these two museums along the way! The Ferragamo museum was not exclusively dedicated to the life and works of Ferragamo. There was an exhibit showcasing many different fashion designers who have created fashion designs with art as the focal point. It showed the transition of fashion from pure functionality to form of art.
In the past, fashion was not regarded as a form of art because it was considered too concrete, too close to the material world. The definition slowly evolved and fashion started being seen as art. This gallery exhibit goes through and analyzes this transformation; it even shows modern collaborations between painters and designers like Mondrian and Yves Saint Laurent. The famous Tableau painting on a dress… Art = fashion.