Epoca Fiorucci: in Praise of Irony

Fiorucci history exhibition brand Angelo

“Inspiration always comes from places where balance is disrupted.” - Elio Fiorucci

Whoever was struck at least once by the lightning of inspiration knows how the Italian, Milan-based designer Elio Fiorucci has felt for most of his incredible life.

Since he was very young, Elio was shy and quiet. As it often happens to the shy, his mind was exactly the opposite: colourful and intense.

His first journey to London was crucial for him - it's like pouring gasoline on the fire. From growing up in the quiet Lake of Como and in the harsh city of Milan, raised by a family owning a slipper shop, he was now in the Swinging London, where the streets were vibrant: girls would smoke and wear miniskirts, boys were charming and cheeky, walking down Carnaby Street and shopping at the market.

It was hard to compare London with Milan. There, fashion was stiff and "old", it was all about constrained, formal and classic couture that made you yawn.

When young Elio went back to Italy, he only had one thing in mind: to bring back home that fashion and cultural revolution he had seen in the streets of London and in her friend Barbara Hulanicki's store, Biba.



How Fiorucci Set Fashion Free

The first thing he needed to do was opening his own store, a shelter where fashion would be democratic and accessible. At the time, only a certain kind of people, with a certain kind of income and a certain kind of attitude, would go to the boutiques. Fiorucci's would have welcomed anyone, from the young to their mothers, and they would have found something fun to wear carelessly, expressing their own personality.

Elio asked Amalia Del Ponte to design his first store. She was not an architect but a young sculptress and artist working with different materials like plastics. This would be one of the many collaborations and intellectual partnerships with artists from fields other than fashion, like those with Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, Michele De Lucchi. Fiorucci was curious about pretty much everything, like a kid with new things, and maybe that was exactly the key to his success.

The Fiorucci store opened on May 31st, 1967 with an extraordinary party like those you would see today; even Celentano was there, arriving to the party on a Cadillac.
Inside, not only clothing and accessories but any kind of items, like an edgy Sunday market or an informal art gallery. Shop assistants would wear colourful clothes and a cheerful smile. "We sell small items, but full of feelings", Elio would say later on.

Today, we are so used to an easy, popular fashion that is accessible to everyone, that all this may seem ordinary, but for those times it was a revolution. Fiorucci did "set fashion free".

Fiorucci store brand Angelo vintage

Fiorucci in his store with his shop assistants, 1974
Photo: Everett Collection - Mondadori Portfolio - Sergio Del Grande
Image via The Cut

Fiorucci fashion 1970s vintage

Elio Fiorucci with models
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Parties, Travel and Girls

Fiorucci's was not only a store anymore, it was a place for meeting, like a very cool piazza.

Elio also opened a restaurant within the store: hamburgers and chips from the United Kingdom would be served on Richard Ginori tableware; artists, intellectuals and models would come for dinner and for a drink. Fiorucci was the place to go after theatre, closing late at night; Fiorucci would welcome celebrities and fashion personalities that would make any luxury club envy.

Meanwhile, Elio absorbed ideas like a sponge, especially from his journeys, like it happened that first time in London.
He would send his team around the world looking for inspiration - they were the very first "cool hunters", internationally researching details, materials, productions and patterns to turn into fashion.

During a trip to Ibiza, Elio saw some girls playing in the sea with their jeans on: at the time, denim trousers were designed for men and would give an awkward shape to the feminine body.
However, wet jeans fitted perfectly the women's shape, covering their thighs and bum with a new, lavish sensuality.

From that episode Elio got an idea: creating jeans for women, that would glorify their body and not hide it or make it clumsy.

Elio was a man who loved women, and as such he looked at their body with desire. That's why he was able to see and communicate their sensuality, with grace, respect, appreciation and lighthearted irony.
He was persuaded that lightheartedness is sexy. This was how women's jeans were created - the tight one famous and common beauties are wearing today all around the world.

Fiorucci models vintage 1970s 1980s Angelo

Models wearing Fiorucci in Milan, 1974
Photo: Everett Collection - Mondadori Portfolio - Giorgio Lotti
Image via The Cut

Vintage dress animalier Fiorucci Angelo

Model wearing Fiorucci, 1978
Photo: Associated - REX Shutterstock - Rex USA
Image via The Cut

American Dream

When Fiorucci opened his store in New York, in 1976, Americans went crazy about it.

In his diaries, Andy Warhol would say he was impressed by Fiorucci's, so much he also decided to introduce his new editorial project Interview Magazine there.

At Fiorucci's, one of the shop assistants was the brother of Madonna, who was still unknown at the time, and who would keep attending those wild parties for so much time. At Fiorucci's, writer Truman Capote would sign his books, Jackie Onassis would drink coffee, artist Keith Haring curated the restyling of the store with his graffiti during the 1980s.

The energy of that place was so poweful, positive and sparkling that people would define Fiorucci's as "the daytime Studio 54".

Andy Warhol Fiorucci 1980s vintage

Fiorucci with Andy Warhol
Image via NSS Magazine

Fiorucci jeans vintage Angelo

Fiorucci in his store in San Babila square, Milano, 1974
Photo: Everett Collection - Mondadori Portfolio - Giorgio Lotti
Image via The Cut

The Concept of Fiorucci

At this stage, Fiorucci was more than a store or a brand - it was a universe.

It was a loud, cheerful, ironic, fun, lighthearted place, where customers were interesting personalities, bold artists, wonderful and stylish it-girls, open-minded intellectuals wearing Fiorucci's fashion of miniskirts, bikinis, colourful boots, tight jeans, crazy t-shirts and pink furry handcuffs.

Fiorucci's enthusiasm and madness were the polite kind, never excessive on purpose or coarse. Fiorucci expressed tenderness and irony, just like its logo does, with the two Victorian angels joined together behind the name of the brand.
It's like saying: learn to live lightheartedly and be yourself, with kindness and joy. There's nothing more liberating than that.

Fiorucci logo angels vintage

Fiorucci logo
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Until January 6th, 2019, the Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna di Venezia is hosting Epoca Fiorucci (The Age of Fiorucci), an exhibition dedicated to the designer's creativity and his collaborations with personalities from art and culture.
In the exhibition, find cult clothes and accessories by Fiorucci from A.N.G.E.L.O. Vintage Archive.

Click here for more info


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