Critic and curator, Maria Luisa Frisa is Full Professor at IUAV University of Venice, where she is Director of the BA Program in Fashion Design and Multimedia Arts. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal «Dune: Writings on Fashion, Design and Visual Culture» published by Flash Art. Her latest book: Le forme della moda (Il Mulino, 2015). She also edited Desire and Discipline: Designing Fashion at Iuav (Marsilio, 2016). Among her latest projects: the exhibition and the book Bellissima. Italy and High Fashion 1945-1968 (Rome, MAXXI, 2014-15; Bruxelles, BOZAR, 2015; Monza, Villa Reale, 2015-16; Fort Lauderdale, NSU Art Museum, 2016); the exhibition and the book ITALIANA. Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971-2001 (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 2018); the exhibition and the book Memos. On Fashion in This Millennium (Milano, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, 2020).
How does the current crisis impact the relationship to clothing and fashion?
Within the fashion system, the pandemic has forced us to rethink our ways of working, questioning the rituals related to fashion, its presentation, its consumption. I have often had the impression that fashion was unable to interpret the moment. It sounded voiceless. However, the clothing project connected to fashion remains central, because it responds to our deepest need, that is defining ourselves, even in front of others. The body seems to have lost its consistency, having dematerialized due to the distancing; anyway, fashion remains fundamental, because it is an important production system that employs many workers at different levels, because it constantly designs imaginaries and raises questions that cross and define contemporaneity.
How does/can fashion play its individual expression and liberation role in our changing societies?
Fashion is a tool useful to shape identities, and in this sense it is political. Thanks to its immediacy, it has the extraordinary strength to speak to everyone. Now fashion is asking us to ponder on issues related to the possible interpretations of sustainability and ethics. Also, it is asking us to re-think the very idea of the body – and of its urgency in this moment of forced distancing – and also the definition of beauty, directly addressing the complexity of diversity: being inclusive in the moment of “social distance” is something extraordinarily strong and important.
Can you mention a piece of clothing, a collection, or an image that would embody fashion special role in 2020 for you?
The long Epilogue, presented by Gucci in July, showed the exhausting preparations for the show without ever arriving to the expected conclusion; the show was really about Alessandro Michele’s awareness of the need to break with the imposed rules and close a chapter to open a new, different one. On the other hand, Dior decided to go ahead with the presentation of the cruise collection in Lecce, even though behind closed doors, as planned before the pandemic. With this act, Dior stated the need for fashion to find new solutions, and also to be resistant, to reaffirm its role, without any easy moral judgments. Two interesting positions that invite us to face new challenges.