The ‘Eighties was a significant period, a period of complex political, social and cultural transformation. For Italy that was emerging from the leaden years it was the decade of Made in Italy’s affirmation – Made in Italy as the definition of a quality product in terms of form and content that found one of its most expressions in fashion. Italian designers were on the lips of everyone throughout the world, not only as creators of clothing, but as masters of style. It was an Italian style that burst onto the international scene. The image of Italy as a winner was consecrated by the 1982 World Soccer Cup victory. But what remains of that decade in recent memory is often an accumulation of excess without content.
So, what were the Eighties, really? Just Reaganistic hedonism, neo-baroque decor and postmodern landscapes, or were they also the iconoclastic and constructive creativity of the underground? Was it only the birth of the total look and luxury signatures or the construction of a system that would make fashion the driving engine of the Italian economy? Creativity and novelty are the key words for a period with such apparent contradictions that it seems to escape any precise definitions. There was the return to professionalism, to officialdom after the protests and it was expressed in the street style. At the same time the conservative revolution of Ronald Reagan’s and Margaret Thatcher’s free market was taking place, wealth and its ostentation became rehabilitated. A celebration of the ego with respect to the social. The exasperated quest for the right look. Fashion was no longer a combination of clothes and accessories, but the mirror of a rapidly and continuously changing society. From the fashion shows to the newspapers, to music videos, to art galleries the energy released by punk pours in an interrupted flow of images. It just takes looking back with today’s curiosity to see how current the Eighties are, or at least how they are becoming next year’s vintage.
Leggings and punk bracelets for street wear, false eyelashes, exaggerated make-up, gigantic shoulders and gold on the catwalks. Excessive by definition, the ‘Eighties are back in style. Jennifer Lopez as Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, Fisherspooner as the Yellow in the disco music ratings, Morgan from Bluvertigo as Adam Ant, Hard Rock and Hell’s Angels’ t-shirts, Boy George in a Broadway musical about the life of Leigh Bowery, Amanda Lear in a TV show that becomes a cult event. Britney Spears as Madonna or Madonna as Britney Spears? The new conservatism, G. W. Bush as Reagan, Berlusconi as Craxi, inflation and runaway luxury. And there is more. Evocations of that controversial decade are everywhere.
The Exhibit. An array of “containers.” A Blade Runner city.
You will enter the show through a black filter/space. It is dark, broken by a few luminous guide points, in which black containers face the viewer. Walking among the piles of containers, guided by light and music, you will discover the displays that hold the scenes and the glamour of those years of excess. A city of more than 40 containers with 100 garments and things, furniture, music and film not only from the glorious and muddy decade, and also from now, the Neo ‘80s.
The exhibit consists of three sections:
_ section one: SUPERBODY a daytime atmosphere for a plastic, constructed, nude body Clothes that construct and model the body. But it is a body that is starting to define itself as a structure with aerobics and workouts. The clothing is designed to give the individuals power and personality. Padding enlarges the shoulders making the female figure impressive and authoritative. Fashion cuts the figures against the background and constructs silhouettes with no uncertainties whatsoever. The female superbody is at ease in the power suit and also when it is dressed like the sexy heroine. To be fashionable the man becomes soft and sensuous, colored and daring. The male superbody is a sculpture and is no longer afraid of being a neoclassical gay icon.
_ section two: TRANSBODY a nocturnal atmosphere for a body that is transfigured, made up, disguised, excessive The desire to be different. To be unique and extraordinary. You don’t have to be attractive, but you must be a personality, a character. The setting is nocturnal – the discos and clubs produce theme evenings. Bodies get transfigure to become unforgettable. Leight Bowery is the icon for everyone – with artists in the lead – who choose their bodies and disguises as the medium for art and battle. Excess becomes a way of communicating and experimenting. Creativity and individualism are the key words of the moment. Anyone can become a self-styled artist, graphic designer, stylist – even just for one night. There is no longer just one point of view and fashion is a seismograph that records accumulations of tremors, movements and changes.
_ section three: POSTBODY The body becomes de-materialized, clothing is a mental fact. It embodies different atmospheres. The outfit is a player in the game of references and quotations. The era of post. Styles coexist and the outfit is the result of reflections on fashions, styles, history and traditions. The postmodern body is wired, connected to the network as in William Gibson’s Neuromant. In the reality that is starting to become virtual the outfit is mental, it dresses minds and attitudes. Fashion proposes lifestyles that allow everyone to live dreams and experience different atmospheres. Quotations and references make it possible to use a fragment from the past and from yesterday to transfigure it into the esthetic of customizing and referencing. Architects and philosophers exhaust themselves around the concept of Postmodern, artists are trans-avant-gardists, quoters and NuoviNuovi … And another story is about to start.
The book/catalogue is a visionary, creative journey through the images that made the 80s. It is not chronological, but is arranged by topics (the working girl, sexy woman, American Gigolo, night clubbing, wild boys, yuppies, graffiti, postmodern landscapes …). The book’s itinerary is supplemented with the Neo 80s insert – an extraordinary collection of pictures from the 80s to now. A collection of essays on fashion, art, architecture and customs by scholars and journalists; then a chronology and glossary of the decade’s words and expressions complete the book.
At the exhibit and in the catalogue:
fashion: Adidas, Allegri, Azzedine Alaïa, Giorgio Armani, Basile, Balençiaga, Laura Biagiotti, Dirk Bikkembergs, Body Map, Hugo Boss, Bottega Veneta, Veronique Branquinho, Brioni, Byblos, Cadette, Callaghan, Canali, Cantarelli, Chiara Boni, Nino Cerruti, Closed, Enrico Coveri, Comme des Garçons, Complice, Corneliani, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Ann Demeulemeester, Dior, Dolce e Gabbana, Ellesse, Erreuno, Cesare Fabbri, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferré, Alberta Ferretti, Elio Fiorucci, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Genny, Romeo Gigli, Georgina Goodley, Katherine Hamnett, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Krizia, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Claudio LaViola, Henry Lloyd, Lotto, Maripol, Max Mara, Missoni, Claude Montana, Franco Moschino, Moncler, Thierry Mugler, Nike, Rifat Ozbek, Puma, Cinzia Ruggeri, Jeremy Scott, Martine Sitbon, Paul Smith, Luciano Soprani, Steven Sprouse, Sybilla, Timberland, Trussardi, Valentino, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Gian Marco Venturi, Gianni Versace, Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, Bernhard Willhelm, Yohji Yamamoto, Marina Yee, Zamasport, Ermenegildo Zegna, Pal Zileri
design: Ron Arad, Andrea Branzi, Tom Dixon, Tommaso Garattoni, Massimo Iosa Ghini, King Kong (Stefano Giovannoni e Guido Venturini), Shiro Kuramata, Charles Jencks, Memphis, Franck O. Gehry, Aldo Rossi, Denis Santachiara, Borek Sipek, Philippe Starck, Ettore Sottsass, Daniel Weil
art: Lina Bertucci, Leigh Bowery, Magazzini Criminali, Gilbert and George, Nan Goldin, Robert Longo, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Christian Marclay, Carlo Maria Mariani, Helmut Newton, Pierre et Gilles, Shabbaz, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber