“Presented flat, on a hanger or on an artificial bust made of wood or wicker, the garment is silenced,” but also an orphan, according to the Director of the Paris fashion museum Palais Galliera, Olivier Saillard.
The wondrous Saillard is in Florence at the moment for Pitti Uomo, to present his own version of a fashion exhibit, “The Ephemeral Museum of Fashion” which will continue until October 22nd, 2017.
First appearing on my radar two and half years ago when he presented a beautiful performance piece with actress Tilda Swinton, also at Pitti Uomo, Saillard’s passion for fashion is so infectious that walking through the newly re-baptized Costume Galleries of the Pitti Palace, I imagined the dresses, the smoking jackets and the men’s coats could magically take life and envelop me in their beauty. In fact, more than a still, stagnant museum, this way of displaying clothing makes the spectator feel like their are backstage at a performance, waiting for the actors and the dancers to claim their costumes — definitely not like being in your run of the mill, everyday fashion museum.
As a New Yorker, I’ve spent endless hours inside the Met’s fashion galleries, walked through many a show there. On my travels to London, I’ve never missed the chance to visit the Victoria and Albert fashion rooms, which usually host a cool exhibit. But I’ve always felt like an outsider, walking through those halls, and the clothing featured under the safety of its glass showcases, as Saillard points out in his introduction for the exhibit’s catalog, always felt like a still life, never capturing the whims of my imagination.
In Florence, last night, all that changed. Dolce and Gabbana’s Byzantine dress stood irreverently alongside a light gold one with voluminous sleeves from the 18th century, Grès seemed at home next to Gianni Versace and a pink Balenciaga number with a mischievous navy bow held court alone, at the end of a short corridor. Sleeves here have become “wings for the heart”, hair is a fashion accessory and Prada’s dress, a wearable painting. The walk through the nearly empty galleries, on a special opening night preview, made me feel like a little girl, finally able to go through my fashionista mom’s closet.
The preview was followed by a delicious dinner atop the Pitti Palace, overlooking the piazza and with a 360 degree view of beautiful Florence. Seated at a table that seemed like the coolest and best paired, I reveled in the night breeze, while eating “gnudi”, which translates literally to “nakeds”, a type of pasta similar to gnocchi but larger and made with spinach and ricotta in a simple sauce of butter and sage, some large tortellini filled with “pappa al pomodoro”, a veal fillet paired with artichoke hearts and potato puree and a cake buffet that brought out the little girl in me, once again. And if that wasn’t enough, there was even an acrobatic show by the Sonics, complete with crane and a giant floating red contraption that was a bit of a cross between an upside down lotus flower and an heirloom tomato.
And just as the word says “ephemeral”, once I stepped out into the balmy night, walking amidst the crowds of tourist in Florence, just like that, it was gone. But I’m sure it will continue for the next four days as Pitti Uomo takes over the city and my life!