Roberto (1930). He is considered the greatest Italian creator of high fashion, understood as a source of unique pieces. He started designing clothes at a very young age. In 1951 he presented his first Collections in Florence, under the guidance of Giovanni Battista Giorgini, causing a sensation, kicking up a great fuss, and obtaining enormous success. In 1956, after the presentation in Palazzo Pitti, he was acclaimed by the international press as the best Italian fashion designer. He was complimented even by Christian Dior: “In Italy you have a prodigy named Roberto Capucci; should he turn up in Paris, I hope he comes to visit me.” Roberto was unable to accept Dior’s invitation because the inventor of the New Look died that very same year. In 1958, with the creation of his box-shaped line, he won the Oscar of Fashion, a prize awarded by Filene’s of Boston which, for the first time, gave it to an Italian designer. From 1962 to 1968 he was in Paris where he opened an atelier and would be the first Italian couturier offered a chance to give his name to a perfume. In 1970 he worked with Pier Paolo Pasolini, who chose him to design the costumes of Silvana Mangano for Teorema. Over time, his preference for research and his need for freedom from the ruling fashion trends, and also from the repetitiveness of the fashion calendar and the demands of the griffes, would increase. In the early 1980s, when Collections could be watched on TV and prêt-à-porter prevailed, he abandoned the Chamber of Fashion and decided to present his Collections according to his own rhythms, always in different towns, and often in museums. In 1986 the Arena of Verona invited him to design the costumes of the priestesses in Norma for the Tribute to Maria Callas. In 1994 he was awarded the title Academic of Brera. In 1995 he was invited by the China Textile Council to give a series of seminars on the art of fashion at the universities of Beijing and Shanghai. Born in Rome, the son of a doctor, he studied art in high school and then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, where he attended the courses of Mazzacurati, Avenali, and De Libero. He “stumbled” into fashion almost by chance: he had wanted to be a set designer, a costume designer, or perhaps an architect. An outsider since his début, he was scared “by the contagion of vulgarity, by the rule of bad taste, by ugliness” and decided to isolate himself in the turris eburnea (the ivory tower) of his atelier in a lonely creativity. He lives a secluded life, looking for stimulus far away from the universe of fashion, which is for him too commercial. He finds it in far-off travels, observing the flight of a bird during an African safari, but also simply by peeling an orange, copying the elegant spiral of the peel. He becomes inspired looking at a painting, a statue, or a suit of armor; or by observing the plissé of a ruff, the voluptuousness of the damask in a portrait by Bronzino, the drapery of a cloak in a statue by Bernini, or the indefinable light-blue of a corset in a painting by Cosimo Tura. Feelings of affinity also have a role in his choice of the most suitable frame in which to show his work: ancient noble palaces, museums, academies, and concert halls. Every presentation is an event, more similar to an artist’s personal exhibit than to a fashion runway. To prepare a Collection, he can make as many as 1,200 sketches, first in black-and-white, so as not to be influenced by colors, and then he selects them. Every dress can require as much as four months of work and almost 200 yards of fabric, chosen from among the most precious ones. Capucci is the last to use ermesin taffeta, a fabric that is hand-made on looms from the 1500s. He demands satins that are as soft as crepe, using the sauvage, a very sought-after raw silk, the Mikado, the georgette, and fabrics dyed in Lyon. He will reproduce up to 172 shades of one color in the plissé of a cloak, a girdle, or a skirt, as in the dress inspired by the Oceans shown on the Italian stand of Lisbon Expo in 1998. He follows a visionary dream of beauty in sculpture-dresses with swirls, crests, and ribs that combine the sumptuousness, the rigor, and the solemnity of Renaissance costumes, fantastic architectures, spectacular allegories, and clothes of very strong personality and nonexistent practicality, much sought after for magnificent balls and particularly important weddings. “I never allowed myself to be influenced by the logic of ‘When shall I wear it? On what occasion?’ The history of costume wouldn’t exist if others, over the centuries, had thought this way.” He was the first, in the 1960s, to conceive avant-guard runways on which to introduce elements of extravagant and subtle humor, where he had fun experimenting with every sort of material, such raffia, straw, sea rocks, plastics filled with colored water, bamboo, sackcloth, glass-reinforced plastic, Perspex, and fluorescent rosary beads (Paris, 1965). He rejected the inflated term of designer, preferring to be called a researcher. He was the first to abhor and condemn the phenomenon of top models, who, according to him “suck the blood from clothes. His first client was Isa Miranda, followed by Doris Duranti and Elisa Cegani. Elvina Pallavicini, the princess of the Lefebvre schism, opened the way for the first ladies and the first young ladies of the black aristocracy, the so-called “capuccine” as Irene Brin would define them. For very special occasions he dressed solemn princesses, divas, and first ladies, from Gloria Swanson to Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Silvana Mangano, who Capucci considers the most elegant woman he ever met. Rita Levi Montalcini wore his““<$$>raster(100%,100%)=”capucci.tif”<$$>A design by Roberto Capucci.““velvet dress with a short train in Stockholm, during the Nobel ceremony. Among his personal exhibitions: Roberto Capucci, The Art Of Fashion, Volume, Color, Method in Florence at Palazzo Strozzi (organized by Pitti Immagine from an idea by Luigi Settembrini), and also in Munich, at the Stadtmuseum, in 1990; Roberto Capucci, Roben wie Rustungen at the Kunsthistoriches Museum in 1991, with 80 of his dresses presented next to the same number of ceremonial suits of armor from the 1400s; Roberto Capucci, The Paths of Creativity in Rome, at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, in 1994, the year when some dresses from the Capucci archive were exhibited in Montefalco (Perugia) next to paintings by Benozzo Gozzoli and Perugino from the 1400s; Roberto Capucci’s Never-Manufactured Designs, in Milan, at Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi, in Spring 1999. His clothes are on permanent display in several museums throughout the world, including the Gallery of Costume at Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Museo-Fortuny in Venice, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna.
&Quad;2001, February. Capucci celebrates 50 years in fashion. Venice dedicates an exhibit to him, organized and curated by Gianluca Bauzano, with the support of the National Chamber of Fashion and designed by Nylstar, on the occasion of the third edition of the Meryl Awards.
&Quad;2001, July. Capucci sells part of his empire to Franco Bruccoleri, for twenty years a distributor of great brands in Europe. Bruccoleri is the chief of a syndicate of investors who have decided to relaunch the Capucci brand, without undermining its identity. Roberto Capucci is to remain artistic director of the firm.
To accompany the Capucci exhibit in Tokyo, Fashion System Italy, together with the Italian Textile Association and the Chamber of Fashion, organizes Flash Made in Italy. It is an installation with four mega screens, five monitors, and a space for meetings between Italian entrepreneurs and Japanese buyers. The screens broadcast images of the Milano Moda Donna Collections and of Italian events having to do with yarns and clothing. An internet connection let visitors visit the web-sites of more than 600 companies. In 2001, Italian exports of clothes and accessories to Japan amounted to €954 million, an increase of 10% compared to the previous year.
A new creative team, part of the house, will reinvent the style and the image of the prêt-à-porter line, with the help of an archive of 30,000 drawings, sketches, and outlines (half of which are totally new), while respecting the traditions of the firm. The three new designers are: Bernhard Wilhelm, a German; Sybilla, who is from Spain; and Tara Subkoff, an American and a designer at Imitation of Christ.
Clothes as sculpture, true works of art, are those shown by Roberto Capucci during an exhibit organized in a very suitable location, the 18th century Villa Panza, donated to FAI by the contemporary art collector Giuseppe Panza of Biumo. The 80 dresses by Capucci are shown by shape and color in relationship with the art that surrounds them. It is a very wide-ranging retrospective, starting with the box-shaped line of 1958. The pieces exhibited include “Fire,” first presented in New York in 1985; the group of clothes for the Biennial of Venice in 1995 that were inspired by the visionary world of mineral and natural elements; the Ocean line created for the Lisbon Expo which combined thousands of pieces of fabric to imitate the colors of the sea; and the Giorgini Collection created to honor 50 years of Italian fashion and the man who launched it in Florence in 1951. The exhibition is curated by Gianluca Bauzano with a catalogue by Skira.
The new Eveningwear Collection, designed by Sybilla, is presented in Paris. The “happening” also sees the début of the new shoe line designed by Franca Maria Carraro. High fashion continues to be the work of Capucci. A selection of clothes anticipating the Spring-Summer 2004 Collection is presented at Rue de Sevigné 46.
Franco Bruccoleri announces in an interview that the planned prêt-à-porter line has ben officially suspended. This happens after the launch of the last Spring-Summer 2005 Collection and in spite of the positive reaction of buyers.