Carol Del Cielo is our guest blogger this week. On May 19, she reported here on Virtual Graffiti, about how Florence is fighting the vandalism of its monuments with an innovative tool—the tablet computer. This time she reports on an exhibition she saw on a recent visit to New York City where she grew up. Carol is an anesthesiologist in Santa Barbara, studies Italian, and has strong ties with her relatives in Italy.
While I was in New York, I saw an exhibition called “The Elegance of Food.” This show celebrates the Italian love of both fashion and food. After opening at the Museum of the Markets of Traiano in Rome in May 2015, The Elegance of Food arrived in New York City. The exhibition is presented by the Italian Trade Commission in collaboration with L’Unindustria, the general confederation of Italian industry. The objective is to explore the interchange between the cultures of food and creativity “Made in Italy.” The show includes 58 dresses and accessories chosen by the curators Stefano Dominella and Bonizza Giordani Aragano. It also includes photographic and video images that trace the contemporary creative journey where “beautiful and well made” Italian-style blends with culinary splendor. The exhibition is a demonstration of how fashion has been able to draw inspiration from good food.
The clothes fashioned by top designers, from 1950 to today, together with the creations of rising designers, tell the untold story of the seductive blend between fashion and taste. The designers include Etro, Valentino, Gucci, Romeo Gigli, Gattinoni, Salvatore Ferragamo, Moschino, and Laura Biagiotti. For example, Etro’s slogan is “We are What We Eat” hence the marvelous prints of the Fashion House are enlivened with pasta and raw shellfish, in graphic compositions created with digital images, where lunches, very Italian in their representation, are transformed into a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors.
The show has a surreal aspect because all of the things are not what people usually expect to see on outfits. The first garment that people see as they enter the exhibition is “the bread dress” by Gattinoni. The dress is composed of a sculpted bustier with real ears of corn and trousers embroidered with glazed and crystallized biscotti and pretzels. Another designer, Tiziano Guardini, created a dress inspired by 19th century fashion which is accented with olive branches and leaves.
There is a gown by Giorgio Armani that is inspired by bamboo, a delicate and robust plant at the same time, more and more in vogue in the eco-friendly industry. Salvatore Ferragamo, a pioneer in the use of poor materials like cork, raffia and hemp, chose to exhibit some of his most famous shoes taken from his precious historical archive. Ken Scott, the gardener of fashion and only American designer, chose to praise food through bold prints on his dresses, that is, peas, artichokes, and apples that became “a marvelous garden” to wear.
This exhibition is intended to strengthen Italian exports. With $67.7 billion of exports annually, fashion is the industry leader in Italy. Food is third with $45 billion of which $20 billion are in wine. Interior design is second with $50 billion in exports.
Says the curator, Stefano Dominella, “I have often been questioned in recent years about the paroxysm that is focusing our attention…on the one hand, on hedonism, body care, being lean and fit at any cost…and on taste and gluttony generally springing from food anxiety. It is in this climate of “Dolce Vita” that I developed the idea of a show that combined fashion and food. To smile at this strange pairing, but also to deepen understanding and to raise awareness of the many shades tied to it, not the least of which is respect for nature and the environment.”