In / Under the name of Walter Albini

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A presentation of unique garments created between 1972 and 1974.
Sunday 28 January 2007 at 8.00 p.m.
Hadrian’s Temple

A tribute to Walter Albini at Hadrian’s Temple, within the context of the Haute Couture fashion shows to be held on 28 January at 8.00 p.m. In /Under the name of Walter Albini will features the creations by the icon designer of Italian fashion, a master of the total look, a pioneer of luxury pret-à-porter, capable of combining cultural passion with a love of the history of fashion.

Albini’s ideas on fashion and its development are extremely clear and rigorous. Uniformity of style, a different relationship with each textile manufacturer but, above all, the awareness that High Fashion, as conceived in the ‘50’s, was destined to evolve, to make way for new production concepts. Way ahead of his time, he laid the bases for the emerging Italian look, of an almost inaccessible luxury. Albini insisted on stylistic aspects that he considered to be timeless such as polka dots, stripes, a white collar and ‘30’s style jewellery. A man of enormous passion and culture, Albini’s role models included the legendary Chanel, but also Poiret, Liberty, famous films of the’30’s, the magic of eternal femininity created by Erté, the graphic experiences of the Bauhaus, Constructivism and Futurism, together with projects indirectly linked to the culture of design and “alternative” fashion such as the folk style, borrowed from the streets and street markets throughout the world.

‘’A Fitzgerald-type hero in the ‘Beautiful and the damned’, comparable, in some ways, to Rimbaud on account of his short, though intense life – wrote Silvana Bernasconi – A great talent, a generous human being, a bit of snob, a great aesthete with decadent tastes, one of the great eccentrics like Cecil Beaton or Man Ray’’.

The fashion show at Hadrian’s Temple consists of 33 unique garments preserved in the archive of Marisa Curti, a collector and friend of the designer who died in 1983.
A runway dominated by a crystal shaped fragment of a mirror around which the models slowly move. A circular layout, decorated by mirrors, symbolizing the separation between the Albini of yesterday and the Albini who lives on in his garments. The staging of the performance, directed by Rossella Ronti, who worked with Albini, perfectly recreates the mood of his fashion shows and, in particular, that of his historic creations with minute accuracy. The objective is to capture an on feeling of contemporariness and modernity on stage. “Walter was extremely exacting, aware of his capacities and, above all, kind – said the director – Only the insecure are arrogant. He, on the contrary was an amiable, charismatic, creative and pragmatic individual, who knew exactly what he wanted and how to achieve it”.

Thus, his garments will be the true protagonists of this fashion show, worn by “neutral”, look-alike models whose only distinguishing feature will be the clothing worn by them. The garments that will be showcased (a mixture of items from 4 of the designer’s collections? belong to one of his periods, in a some ways, the purest and most uncontaminated. The runway will see the presentation of creations dating back to the period between 1972 and 1974, with a few exceptions that have been kept as a surprise in order to break the expected pattern of the presentations. White light spotlighting the catwalk to exalt both the colours and materials. The dominant tones, those preferred by the designer, range from violet to lurex with the inclusion of black, stripes and streaks of orange and brown. The whole completed by original pieces from his haute costume jewellery collection which he himself designed and had made up by master craftsmen. Bracelets, necklaces with gold, white and black pearls, made from semi-precious stones or glass, earrings, lonzenge and drop- shaped brooches in either glass or rhinestone. His unfailing silk scarves, small triangles to either be carried in one’s hand or tied to one’s bag, indispensable accessories, ranging from the brighter shades of beige and orange to the paler, contrasting hues of black and cream.
The models’ look was taken from original drawings preserved in the Albini archive. Wigs featuring bobbed, rounded, soft cuts, extremely marked theatrical make-up to give the model a striking appearance without, in any way, detracting from the garment which continues to remain a status symbol, the absolute, inimitable protagonist of the show.

Interview with Marisa Curti
Former partner of Walter Albini and a passionate collector
“He had a magnetic appeal, a man of extraordinary charisma”

What binds you to the world of fashion and, in particular, to Walter Albini?
‘’We were partners, I entered into partnership with him out of love for the man as a designer, probably out of passion. I liked his garments, his experimentation, his avant garde approach to fashion, his total look, the fact that he was way ahead of his times. I have always been a fan of Walter Albini, I followed his career path for a certain period, purchasing his garments from boutiques. Then I happened to take over a place in Milan where garments could be sold at the end of the collection. It was only later that they asked me whether I was interested in going into partnership with Walter Albini and Luciano Papini for Mister Fox and launch the Walter Albini brand label. A main line with a strong and leading image, economically supported by a second collection that is easier, intended for the majority. It was, in fact, then that they suggested that I buy shares. Knowing full-well that this company wasn’t doing too well, I bought them anyway. I was in love with Albini’s style, his unusual way of presenting situations, his expertise.. he was different to other people, he excelled in every field. This was even apparent in the way he dressed. A highly uncommon individual. So I bought the shares and thus became the owner of the Milan showroom, in via Pietro Cossa, 2, that many knew simply as “Spazio Cossadue”.

What were the sentimental reasons that made you make the big move. Was there any kind of economic return on your investment Mrs. Curti?
‘’Shortly after the fashion show held at caffè Florian in Venice, things started going wrong. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy. I took over all the debts, paid the suppliers and sold-off a lot of garments but not all of them. It was then that I bought out everything that was left in the Fossalta di Piave laboratory in the Veneto region, where the designer label was produced. I can now say that I was extremely foresighted. This was in the ‘70’s, when it wasn’t at all fashionable to collect clothes. I, on the contrary, adored several of his creations, I even bought several of them back from my clients. I put them aside and kept a lot of them for myself. Without even knowing it, I was creating a historical archive. The choice of collecting clothes continues to be more of a sentimental than a financial challenge. Unfortunately, nowadays, a lot of things have changed. One just has to look at what’s happening to the world. However, if, in some way something profitable can come out of it, then why not?. I won’t hide the fact that each year I’m forced to invest money in these garments. It’s important, necessary, essential that they are properly preserved”.

Have you received any interesting offers?
“I recently received several offers, even from New York, however, I won’t hide the fact that I have a dream. I’m thinking of opening a museum dedicated to Walter Albini. I’ll be perfectly honest, I have never really thought about an economic return but possibly a return in terms of honouring Albini’s name, so that people won’t forget about him”.

Why this desire to collect clothes, what’s the purpose, the final aim?
‘’Perhaps unconsciously I have always had a desire to revive the designer label although this doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in the museum, exhibition aspect. More than 30 years have gone by…I have had to make a number of sacrifices to keep this dream alive. I tried to buy everything available on the market’’.

How many garments does your archive contain?
‘’About one thousand garments, plus scarves, costume jewellery and bags. The only accessory that I’ve never thought of collecting are shoes. As regards the dresses, some of them are double, triple, because they’re prêt-a-porter garments and therefore it not a question of unique examples. However, the archive does contain several “unique”, more important pieces. Unfortunately, over the years, a lot of things have gone missing. The archive also consists of sketches, drawings, mock-ups, press reviews, books, newspapers and fashion magazines from that period. In the ‘80’s I donated 1,300 drawings to the CSAC of Parma which also purchased 70 garments from my collection”.

What heritage did Albini leave, what is the “raison d’etre” of this archive linked to the innovation and experimentation of a creative designer who represented the history of Italian pret-à-porter?
‘’Walter was way ahead of his time, a forerunner of style. A master of the total look. He designed everything. From the fabrics to the buttons. He didn’t merely limit himself, as was and is perhaps still customary, to purchasing materials from textile manufacturers. He was the real protagonist of the garment, its only creator. He was a fantastic draughtsman. His research was extreme and total. Dresses, costume jewellery and real jewellery, shoes… no-one drew like he did. He drew and sculpted his fashion plates like Ertè”.

In your opinion, how did Albini revolutionize fashion?
‘’Before him there were only custom-made garments. Walter began to create important garments that were no longer only available in a limited edition. Therefore, at lower costs and accessible to everyone, destined, above all to women in the middle-high bracket who could not afford haute couture. The other designers followed his trend. This was how he revolutionized fashion”.

Walter Albini was a man of great charm. Some of the legendary figures that he admired most were Coco Chanel, Rudolph Valentino, the Duke of Windsor and Scott Fitzgerald…what are your personal memories?
‘’There is no doubt that he had enormous charisma. There was no way that you couldn’t be impressed by him. Women and men alike were struck by his forceful personality. He had a magnetic charm, it’s difficult to explain it in words. He was a very complex individual. He was a Pisces. Romantic, fragile, creative, troubled and restless. On his death a legend was born”

What aspects of his character will live on in your memory forever?
‘’His energy and his creative power. He was tireless. He drew wherever he found himself. In a train, in a car, in exercise book, in short, on anything that was near to hand. He was a genius, he managed to design as many as five collections at the same time, all different. No-one, nowadays, probably is capable of doing the same thing.”