Crossroads Tour: Roberto Capucci in Florence…

Most of my travel journals are now at Daveno Travels. This is a segment from my second trip to Florence in 2011 and an unexpected encounter with the works of this haute fashion designer.

I am wandering around in Florence on Mother’s Day, 2011. It’s the last day of my second trip there, so I’m trying to see all the things I missed the first time around. One of those things was the Villa Bardini, a 17th century mansion and gardens, a short distance from Palazzo Pitti and the Forte di Belvedere.

I found a number of paintings in hallways, leading to galleries with lights on motion sensors. It was an interesting experience because I didn’t know what I was walking into until I entered a gallery and triggered the lights. So imagine my utter surprise, when after viewing several paintings that barely held my attention, I walked into a dark gallery, and triggered the lights, and exposed this…

It’s a Roberto Capucci exhibit. I know nothing of this designer, but his work is super impressive in both design and detail. It was a real treat being able to walk completely around the mannequins and absorb all of the detail. The first room I walked into, contained this single dress, titled “Giorgini”:

Capucci created this ‘fabric sculpture’ in honor of his mentor, Giovanni Battista Giorgini, who is considered the father of Italian fashion. Born in 1898, Giorgini started in the early 1920’s to promote “Made in Italy” by opening a buying office in Florence and catering to American department store customers, products of Italian high crafts in silver, leather, Florentine straws, Murano glass and Faenza ceramics. After surviving the Depression and WWII, in 1945 he organized the Allied Gift Shops across Italy, and brought an exhibition titled “Italy at Work” to Chicago in 1947.

In January 1951, Giorgini gathered together all of the most important Italian designers of the time, and a 20 year old beginner – Roberto Capucci. This collective produced the first Italian High Fashion Show the following month (and I believe) launched Capucci’s career in fashion design.

The “Red Bride” was my favorite from this exhibit. Capucci crafted this garment in 2009 from a fabric called ‘mikado.’ The bodice is embroidered with red and gold crystal beads, and the dress itself is made by a series of trapezium shaped elements in two alternating shades of red which form the side wings and train. Capucci was influenced by a number of historical and cultural elements for this gown. Brides wore red in Europe until the second part of the 17th century, as well as brides in India, China and Byzantium. The gold veil was intended not to obscure the bride, but to “exalt the preciousness of the person…” and to indicate that the bride was the mistress of herself and of her future.

I took advantage of the hall of mirrors to grab a couple of rare selfies with these beautiful works.

The next gallery included sketches of several of the gowns. I’m always interested in seeing how an artist’s sketch translates into a finished garment. I was also quite taken with the detailing on this leather skirt overlaid on a silk shift.

This suit is pin-tucked and pieced silk. The detailing was immaculate.

The next room had about a dozen gowns that were very architectural.

The next room after that, Capucci returned to softer and more feminine forms.

If you visit the Villa Bardini, be sure to ask a docent to unlock the door to the balcony on the third floor, which affords you the absolute best panoramic view of the city.  You will also want to allow yourself about an hour to enjoy the gardens. The rest of the details of my final day in Florence are at Daveno Travels.

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