Anna Piaggi is unique. She is a fashion reporter, editor, divinor of trends, designers’ muse and self-styled icon. 'Fashion-ology' refers to her idiosynchratic way of looking at clothes. With her own take on scientific precision, an attitude rather than a method, she has for over 30 years told the new stories about fashion. Putting words to clothes, turning pages into shows, styling the future: this has been Anna Piaggi’s art of fashion. To see Piaggi at work is a rare glimpse into her fascinating career. London was a catalyst, and highlights from her personal archive in Milan detail her extraordinary trajectory on the world fashion stage.
The exhibition is divided into 13 statements, sometimes only the size of a text panel, sometimes a room full of objects. The logic of the layout is a series of intersecting As and upside down As that become Vs: Anna and Vogue, Anna and Vanity, Anna and her husband Alfa, and Vern and the V&A. Bending the material to fit this system is in keeping with Anna Piaggi’s loyalty to typographic design, each month bending words to fit Luca Stoppini’s layout in her Double Pages. The shape allows each section to open onto the next; her ideas are never contained or finished, but will be picked up at a later date. Chronology overlaps, punctuated by favorite themes, her love of Englishness for example.
The repeated presence of collaborators shows her loyalty and explains the 13 favorite outfits in the final section, created by designers who she promoted at he beginning of her career. They are displayed on a final ‘a’, painted in bright red, the red used by Ettore Sottsass for the 1969 Olivetti typewriter which Anna Piaggi uses daily – and of course the red of her lipstick.
Estella! Obviously we think alike....I just went to the exhibition today in view of bumping up this thread BIG time. Armed with my V&A members card and my Canon camera and notepad, off I went to do some exhibition reporting!
So get ready for LOTS and LOTS of scans and pics! (I have waaaaaaay too much time on my hands.....)
Anna Piaggi has been visiting London regularly since the early 1960s. It was in London that she began collecting vintage couture and her approach to the histories of dress, fictional and real, and its kaleidoscopic details was formed. London was also the beginning of her famous preoccupation with pirates, punks and pearly queens, slogans and suffragettes. It was the pose of protest that captured her imagination.
Her attitude to anachronistic styling – the mixing of ‘high’ and ‘low’ dress, couture and street styles – was largely due to her longstanding friendship with Vern Lambert, an Australian dress historian whom she met in London at his vintage dress stand at Chelsea Antiques Market. Lambert later moved to Milan to work for Piaggi, and the historical stories featured in Vanity magazine clearly show his influence. Piaggi was immersed in fashion in London, meeting designers such as Manolo Blahnik and Stephen Jones. They have remained Anna Piaggi’s friends throughout her career, fixtures of the look we associate with her today.
‘What does she get from one of my hats? A physical interpretation of my feelings for her, instant glamour and pizzazz (especially if there is a veil), and a little bit of armour against the world, the fashion business, and merciless front-row fashion show spotlights!’ Stephen Jones
(All text scanned or quoted from V&A A.P. Exhibition and A.P. - Fashion-ology accompanying booklet. All pics taken by myself at Exhibition)
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has captured Anna Piaggi’s style in over 200 watercolour, pencil and ink drawings. The works affectionately record their time together between 1971 and 1985. He describes her attitude to dressing in the introduction to her book, A Fashion Journal:
‘An unexpected detail, a tautology of style, a contradictory accessory, a surprising mixture, unforeseen association of ideas and an indispensable touch of humour create a unique appearance which has made me want to draw it…Dressing is her means of communication. It is an ephemeral act which has constantly to be started over again. There are no rules. Spontaneity is the only law and the occasion is her inspiration. She may wear the same garment often but never in the same way, never in same context.’
Anna Piaggi collects vintage garments from flea markets and auction houses. In Lagerfeld’s drawings we see her transforming these clothes between her unique style, making unexpected connections between different historical periods and genres, mixing the contemporary with the historic.
Anna Piaggi and Karl Lagerfeld, Paris 1970's
(All text scanned or quoted from V&A A.P. Exhibition and A.P. - Fashion-ology accompanying booklet. All pics taken by myself at Exhibition or scanned from Exhibition booklet.)
La Bougie qui Bouge 15/12/1985 - Wearing Schiaraparelli and jacket from Karl Lagerfeld's collection 1985/6. (Pictured)
Fortuny Punk 15/07/1977 - Wearing Fortuny dress (pictured)
Le draps d'or or Annaelisonique en authentique 23/08/1975 - Wearing Poiret gown (pictured).
Purple Jacket - Violet crepe de Chine with a candle embroidered on each sleeve - Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe
Cape - Rose woven brocade with gold lace - Carel
Gown - Gold cloth with velvet - Poiret
Dress - 1920's - Black silk - Fortuny
Anna Piaggi was editor-in-chief of Vanity Magazine from 1980 to 1983. It started as the fashion supplement to a beauty magazine, and then grew into a magazine in its own right. Vanity was largely the result of Piaggi’s visionary collaboration with the illustrator Antonio Lopez. It allowed her to fully explore her love of illustration, but is also where we can see most clearly her attitude to fashion, her everyday passion.
Vintage couture had never been shown on the cover of as fashion magazine before. Piaggi presented an idea of fashion that was about attitude rather than sales, history represented as aesthetic inspiration to be used freely and irreverently without a hint of nostalgia.
Vern Lambert worked on the magazine alongside Piaggi as a ‘fashion researcher’. His influence is evident, especially in the rare pieces featured on each cover and their meticulous description. Other contributors include Alfa Castaldi and his son Paolo,. Luca Stoppini is listed on the design team. It was a collaboration among friends.
‘Ogni numero di Vanity avra’, cosi come Vogue ha, il punto di vista, un suo conretto…concentrato di idée, un assemblage di immagini (e poche parole:’ (‘Each edition of Vanity will have, as Vogue has, its point of view, its concept...concentrated ideas, an assemblage of images, and few words.’
Spreads from various issues of Vanity.
Antonio Lopez at work for Vanity.
Vogue Italia - 1971
Vogue Italia - 1970
(All quoted from V&A A.P. Exhibition and A.P. - Fashion-ology accompanying booklet. All pics taken by myself at Exhibition)