The costume lab
I liked the hats – platforms of black veils, set off with a feather; tiny, cut-out flowers sprouting from an upturned cup shape; a garden of three-dimensional florals; or a puddle of mesh pinned with a single jewel.
Most of all I loved the idea that each student at Rome’s Accademia di Costume e di Moda had been given a budget of €70: €50 for the hats and €20 to create black dresses in the shapes worn by women of the Belle Epoque. That was at the turn of the nineteenth century, when hats were the finishing touch of every woman’s wardrobe and her fashionable silhouette was the bosom and derrière creating an “s”.
“The Accademia is a Roman theatre of costume and fashion, ballet, opera, film, culture, art, craftsmanship and design,” said Lupo Lanzara, the college’s general manager, who, with his brother, CEO Furio Francini, took over the school their grandmother, Rosana Pistolese, founded half a century ago. Their mother still serves as chairman of the board.
The accessories lab
The 50-year celebrations were designed to show that this fashion and costume design academy is unlike others in the ever-growing area of fashion schooling. And not least because it is as dedicated to teaching costume design as it is to offering fashion training for its 183 students.
Significantly, its alumni include Frida Giannini, creative director of Gucci, and Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, who show on the Milan calendar their particular meld of modern design in antique-looking fabrics.
Final work in the costume category – L’Illusion Comique, by Pierre Corneille
Projects on view to mark the half century included tunics inspired by the Byzantine Empire, dangling over the palazzo staircase.
Byzantine inspired tunics
The projects were not all about history. There was an important session on filmmaking; while second-year students worked an artistic laboratory of coats, using fabrics from wool or leather to velvet and silk plissé.
The graduating students seemed to have a modern attitude and were digitally aware. Their designs included streamlined tailoring in unexpected materials such as Neoprene or jute.
Costumes based on Napoleon
I liked the sense throughout the Accademia of the unpredictable, from a project about Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation to another half-century celebration: 50 years of Italian Vogue, with 50 iconic covers in a digital projection.
It was good to see that Italian fashion houses, especially from Rome, collaborate with this college. Projects with Bulgari, Fendi and Valentino, as well as Diesel and LGR eyewear, are all part of the Accademia’s curriculum.
Students with their creations at the Accademia open day
There is also an on-going session with Renato Balestra, the 90-year-old maestro of Alta Moda, whose Be Blue Be Balestra project is designed to mentor young graduates and new students studying fashion communication.
The Roman couturier told me that he sees himself as “a mentor for young designers to enter the fashion world”.
While Lupo Lanzara called it “an extremely interesting project that confirms the desire to create synergies between institutions, companies and fashion schools”.
Members of the “Who Is On Next?” jury included Lupo Lanzara (in front), Silvia Venturini Fendi (in front of Suzy Menkes), journalists Suzy Menkes, Averyl Oates and Tim Blanks, Harrods’s Jason Broderick and Terron Schaefer of Saks Fifth Avenue