The promotion of the Italian language abroad is at the heart of the promotion of Italy as a whole. It is impossible to imagine the dissemination of Italian culture, art, and the Made in Italy without making efforts to spread knowledge of the language. Language and culture, from whatever standpoint we adopt, are tightly bound together.
This is the main aim of “The New Made In Italy for the 21st Century. Fashion, Film, Art and Design” project created by Eugenia Paulicelli, Professor and specialist in Italian Studies at the City University di New York. Professor Paulicelli, along with Claudio Napoli and Massimo Mascolo of the Okozoko production company based in NYC, have made a series of short films dedicated to Italian excellence. These films, all part of the project, are in Italian with English subtitles.
Financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project’s starting point is that knowledge of the Italian language goes hand in hand with knowledge of the nation’s culture, its history, and cultural values. And what better way to study the language than telling the story of the ‘Made in Italy’?
In the video above the Italian institutions in New York officially offer congratulations on the project: Eugenia Paulicelli, PhD/Professor at Queens College & The Graduate Center, The City University of New York – Hon. Fabrizio Di Michele Consul General, Consolato Generale d’Italia a New York – Fabio Finotti, Director of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura a New York – Antonino Laspina, Trade Commissioner, Executive Director for the ICE USA Offices, Luca Cottini, PhD/ Associate Professor Villanova University, Director of Italian Innovators.
La Voce di New York, the project’s Media Partner, will make available links to the videos as they are released on the YouTube Channel The New Made in Italy at no cost to the viewer.
For the moment, the Project has produced four videos, each one about 13 minutes long that illustrate important case studies that help to understand the relationship between fashion and the “Made in Italy” and the ties with Italy’s and its cities’ rich cultural heritage. And how this, both in the present and in the past, determines and distinguishes the history of our language, arts and “know how.”
One of the four episodes, “Life for Fashion and Beauty”, is dedicated to the history of the Fendi Sisters, with the story of the family told by Anna. With a sense of wonder, she speaks about the importance of the figure of her mother and her ability to instill in all five of her daughters a love for dressmaking and, above all, to keep the daughters united as the family business was built up.
“My mother used to say, ‘For me, you are like the fingers of a hand: all different but all important and useful in different ways’.” Anna Fendi goes on to say: “Undoubtedly in our work we have been inspired by the beauty of Rome. And beauty generates beauty.” Anna is right, and it is not by chance that in the video the images of the famous sisters’ creations are intercut with images of the beauty of Rome. Anna Fendi’s story also allows us to understand to what degree the history of Italian companies is characterized by the role of the family.
A representative of Italian art and fashion who was born in France, Pierre Cardin breathed in Italianness thanks to his Venetian family that had emigrated there. The video, “A French Italian Legacy” is a homage to Pierre Cardin. In it, we learn of his creations as they are described by Rodrigo Basilicati, his Venetian nephew, collaborator and stylistic heir.
Basilicati points out that his uncle’s art has a unique characteristic: “For my uncle, rather than the dress adapting itself to the body of the model, it was the other way round. Using a culinary analogy, we could say that the glass is the dress, and the champagne is the model. As my uncle saw it, the body must take on the form of the dress,” the exact opposite of what other contemporary designers do. The video intercuts images of Cardin’s and Basilicati’s collections with images of an always splendid Venice.
The third video, “The Art of Costume,” introduces us to the Sartoria Farani, where Luigi Piccolo, the company’s entrepreneurial and artistic heir, and costume designer Daniela Ciancio, describe the craftsmanship and art that goes into their work for cinema and theatre. The Sartoria Farani is an important part of the history of Italian culture. It was founded in the 1960s, the years of the economic boom, but also and above all, the years in which Rome rose to international notoriety thanks to the American film production companies that came to Cinecittà to make their movies in the postwar years. This was the so-called period of “Hollywood on the Tiber.” In the period of the boom and collaborating with Federico Fellini’s and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s costume designer, Danilo Donati and Piero Farani created the unforgettable costumes we see in their films in all their beauty and detail.
“We are dinosaurs of the culture of the craftsmanship that is at the heart of fashion and of theatrical costume production,” says Luigi Piccolo. “Fabrics make sound,” says Ciancio, echoing Piccolo, “and knowledge of craftsmanship means being able to play with the materials we have available. Historical knowledge of clothes is fundamental, it has an important role in the work of the costume designer. It leads us to reflect on social situations, on anthropology, and on belonging to groups. Clothing is the primary expression of the appearance of humankind”.
The degree to which the history of costumes is at the heart of the construction of new costumes, whether modern or historical, is underlined by Luigi Piccolo. Over the last several years, he has built up a collection of historical costumes from the 18th century to the 1960s. This is an exceptional and unique costume archive and is used by historians of costume such as Luca Costigliolo and by world-renowned museums as object of study and research.
The video “Made in Naples” delves into the work of Cesare Attolini. His company has a long tradition of “hand-made” and “made to measure” clothing that illustrates the Neapolitan style that is known all over the world. Attolini’s sons, Massimiliano and Giuseppe tell the story. They go back to the beginnings of the brilliance of the Sartoria Attolini when Vincenzo, their grandfather, created the Neapolitan jacket. In the 1930s, Vincenzo broke with the model of the heavy English jacket, which was then dominant, replacing it with a light jacket, without lining or using shoulder pads and made of light fabric more suited to the warmer Italian climate. The Attolini jacket, on account of the high quality of the local craftsmanship, was made to fit the body of the client, a revolution for those times. Ten years had to pass, however, before Vincenzo Attolini was able to overcome the skepticism of clients and enjoy success. In the 1950s, Cesare Attolini, Vincenzo’s heir, introduced his father’s revolutionary idea in a production cycle. While still maintaining the high level of craftsmanship in the creation of the jacket, he split production up into a series of specialist tasks, turning the tailor into an “expert in production.” “With our generation, the third, both my brother and I have internationalized the scope of the clothes we produce. We are present in all of Europe and in the US,” says Massimiliano Attolini. Lovers of cinema can appreciate Attolini’s jackets in the films of Paolo Sorrentino, where they are worn by Toni Servillo. With the images of the city that act as a frame around the history of Neapolitan tailoring, the video also reminds us of the beauty of Naples.
These four videos show how touch, sensibility, cultural background and the historical knowledge of tailors and costume designers are important ingredients to understand the charm of clothing and cinematic costumes. The tactile and sensorial dimension, which is so important for fashion and cinema, is a constant in the four videos, as is the beauty of the cities represented: Rome, Venice, and Naples.
All four videos can easily be used in Italian language courses both in high schools and universities, as well as in Italian culture courses, and in courses that investigate the “Made in Italy” or fashion, which are now being offered by various American schools, colleges, and universities.
The value of the four videos is that they underline how important is the great historical and regional variety that exists in Italy and its cultural heritage. The videos are also a way to disseminate the Italian language and culture in schools and universities outside Italy and to form one of the chapters of the audiovisual history of fashion and the arts and its ties to landscape and the personages who tell their own and its story.
“Through the choice of the intimate dimension of the story, with the interviewees in their own work environment, we are able to glimpse both a multi-faceted story and a clear innovatory project, a geography of the present turned toward the future. After this first series, we will work on other videos, one entirely dedicated to the culture of sustainability, diversity and social integration that lie behind the initiatives and research of designers and companies working in Italy,” says Professor Eugenia Paulicelli. She goes on to say: “In the upcoming videos that we will continue to produce with Claudio Napoli, we will give space to experiments in craftsmanship and technology, new business models that go hand in hand with the art, beauty, respect for the environment and for human beings.”. These are new and interesting appointments, Professor Paulicelli tells us, that will continue this story using film to publicize and showcase the work that lies behind Italian excellence.