One of Florence’s leading photography archives opens its treasures to the city with this first single-subject exhibition. On 9 January 2017, Fashion in Florence through the lens of Archivio Foto Locchi opened in Palazzo Pitti’s Andito degli Angiolini: 100 very rare pictures taken from the 1930s to ‘70s tell the story of fashion in Florence through the lens of the photographers of Foto Locchi.
The project stems from a collaboration between Archivio Storico Foto Locchi (a cultural patrimony of priceless value comprising more than five million photographs), director of the Uffizi Galleries Eike Schmidt, the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana – thanks to which the exhibition will be inaugurated with an event during the 91st edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo – and the Gruppo Editoriale publishing group, with the intention of promoting the importance of the photography archive and paying tribute to the historic connection between Florence and fashion.
Eike D. Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery: “Today, as the inevitable abstraction of objects and concrete spaces in the digital world creates an unprecedented search for authentic masterpieces and unique places, Florence has the chance to revitalise its specific role as a key player in the textile and apparel industries, which essentially date back to the Renaissance”.
Andrea Cavicchi, president of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana: “The Archivio storico Foto Locchi is the most authentic testament to the birth and success of Made in Italy in the world. Without this documentary heritage, the city of Florence would be poorer. So would the institution I chair, the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana, championed by farsighted public officials who understood, even in 1954, just how important and vital the textile-apparel sector, the leather industry and the creativity of our artisanal products could be—in terms of work, turnover and employment”.
Erika Ghilardi, Archivio Foto Locchi: “This monographic exhibition, the first by the Archivio storico Foto Locchi, held in the halls of the old-guard Palazzo Pitti royals, and its opening during Pitti Uomo 91, is the source of my great pride and sincere excitement for myself and my family. The fashion section is one of the prevalent, important themes in the Archive—an archive whose cultural and visual heritage includes more than 5 million images telling the story of Florence over the last century”.
THE THREE SECTIONS OF THE EXHIBITION
The artisan workshops: That set of workshops dedicated to high craftsmanship since the Middle Ages, which in the twentieth century contributed to the creation of some of the best-known Italian high fashion labels in the world. Already in the Twenties, the legend of Florentine craftsmanship had arrived in the United States: wealthy American heiress turned to Florence to buy up embroidered lingerie, silverware, exquisitely worked leather and straw hats. Emblematic in this context was Salvatore Ferragamo’s decision to settle in Florence after 13 years of success in America. He chose Florence for its beauty as well as to delve into the depths of the specialized crafts that would allow the shoemaker to achieve his goals of excellence.
Fashion in Florence: from the earliest events after World War II to the legendary shows in Palazzo Pitti’s Sala Bianca (1952-1982), the origins of modern fashion in Florence are thanks to the courage of a man who was as courteous as he was severe, a connoisseur of the American market, Giovanni Battista Giorgini, who had made a name for himself in New York as a buyer capable of turning dreams into reality. If Giorgini was the father of Italian fashion, then Florence at that time was the cradle of beauty and charm, of a new style that emanated from the Florentine and international entourage that had formed around the newly born fashion system, as seen in the photography of those days taken by Foto Locchi reporters not only of the catwalks in the Sala Bianca, but also in the private palazzos and historic gardens with their gala dinners, parties and exclusive rendezvous.
The fashion celebrities: The Florentine maisons that birthed the modern history of Italian fashion such as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Emilio Pucci told by their founders and the celebrities who made them fashion around the world. The deus ex machina of the great Italian designers who showed their collections in the Sala Bianca: Roberto Capucci, Emilio Schuberth, Sorelle Fontana and Simonetta Colonna di Cesarò. Celebrities who had no qualms about taking a chance alongside Giovanni Battista Giorgini and who revolutionized modern Italian clothing starting in Florence. In addition to the special guests who flew in from Paris, like Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli, the foreign aristocracy such as the Duke of Windsor and fated Hollywood stars, from Audrey Hepburn to Paulette Goddard and the divine Maria Callas.
Perusing the immense Archivio and annual agendas, written up daily by photo reporters from the Foto Locchi bottega, brings a constant stream of new discoveries. One example among many, which emerged during the research carried out for this exhibition, is the note dated 6 June 1948, indicating that that evening in the Sala Bianca, a “Gala Evening with Presentation of Models” (film rolls 568 and 569 from 1948). It was, then, a “preliminary” event to the noted fashion shows held regularly in Palazzo Pitti since 22 July 1952.
Accompanying the show is the catalogue published by Gruppo Editoriale featuring the 100 rare pictures on display in the exhibition and contextualized with articles written by Caterina Chiarelli, Eva Desiderio and Stefania Ricci, in addition to an introduction by Eike Schmidt, Andrea Cavicchi and Erika Ghilardi.
The exhibition has been made possible thanks to Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Publiacqua, Toscana Aeroporti, and with the support of Dr. Vranjes, Edra and Caffè Gilli dal 1733 Firenze.
Palazzo Pitti, Andito degli Angiolini, Piazza de’ Pitti 1, 50125 Florence
From 9 January to 5 March 2017
Tuesday to Sunday, 8.45am-6.50pm
ARCHIVIO FOTO LOCCHI
Archivio Storico Foto Locchi is under the protection of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism for its high artistic and documentary value, since it comprises more than five million photographs of the history of Florence and Tuscany from the 1930s to the present day, stored as original negatives. Pictures from the world of fashion, sport, theatre, groundbreaking news and events, as well as fragments of daily life in the past and present. The black-and-white photography of Archivio Storico Foto Locchi convey fleeting feelings and atmospheres, in an extraordinary series of events, emotions and famous visitors from all over the world. The archive came into existence at the heart of the work by the old Foto Locchi photography workshop founded by Tullio Locchi and continued by Silvano Corcos as its soul. Over the years Locchi has grown into a flourishing firm employing more than 30 staff, whose aim remains the same: to document all city events worthy of note. With the arrival of television, the three large screens in piazza della Repubblica played a fundamental role in news reporting at the time. Now Erika Ghilardi, a direct descendent of the Locchi family, manages what can be deemed true world heritage.