Brand and artistic name of Mariuccia Mandelli. Italian designer. In Spring 1999, New York University opened the doors of its Gray Art Gallery for the first time to a fashion designer, hosting the exhibition that celebrated 40 years of Krizia’s work — the exhibition that had been mounted at the Triennale in Milan in 1995. The exhibition was a cross-section of Krizia’s most representative clothes, which were hung on headless dummies-sculptures invented by the costume designer Gabriella Pescucci. Also included were the animals-symbols that have always characterized Mariuccia Mandelli’s Collections and the special effects and lights and mirrors designed by set designer Dante Ferretti. Born in the city of Bergamo Alta, she decided as a young girl to launch herself into the world of fashion with a friend, Flora Dolci. A table and a sewing machine, a première and 5-6 workers in a Milan apartment offered by the musician Lelio Luttazzi were the background to her first creations. These were simple articles, characterized by a rigorous linearity when compared to the elaborate clothes of that time: dresses, skirts, and blouses that the young and strong-willed Mariuccia, shy but determined, crammed into her cases to start a pilgrimage through the boutiques of half Italy. She was even taken for a detergent seller. She sold her first skirt (she still remembers this) to a store in Corso Vercelli in Milan. She also managed to sell the first tailleurs bearing the label K, nowadays worn by millions of women, men, and children all over the world, that generated a turnover in 1998 of 500 million dollars. Krizia’s official début occurred in 1957 at the Samia in Turin, where her malleable style met with the favor of the buyers. At the same time Elsa Haerter, of the magazine Grazia, and Henri Bendel, of the small but prestigious department store in New York, discovered her talent. The first photographs in the newspapers propelled her on the path to fame and fortune. As her collaborators she wanted two Italian designers who were later to become famous: first, Walter Albini, and second, Karl Lagerfeld. But she was always the one who supervised and made the designs, using the same technique of squared figures which then were turned into clothes. Krizia was the first to change the look of traditional fashion. During the 1960s, when twin-sets were trendy, she invented knitted pullovers and, with a mix of yarns, sweaters with which she immediately changed the traditional schemes of dressing. At Palazzo Pitti, cradle of the Italian prêt-à-porter in the mythical White Room, she made her début in 1964 with a black and white Collection of plissé dresses (one of her recurrent themes) to be worn with mini cardigans. This Collection allowed her to win the “Critica della moda” award, attributed before only to Emilio Pucci. Her passion for knitwear urged her to start the label Krizia Maglia in 1967. This was the year she met Aldo Pinto, who became her husband and working partner. New, ironic lucky charm animals were created, to form an extraordinary and propitiatory menagerie. The first was a jacquard sheep in 1968, followed by a cat, bear, and fox, then a series of more dangerous animals, such as a leopard, tiger, and a panther (her symbol) stylized in 1920s fashion. However, handcrafting her clothes was too limiting and her company soon became industrial, with a factory on the outskirts of Milan. Here she could study and elaborate her inventions, with the machinery ready at hand to make the first sample. She tested innovative and technological materials,such as anaconda skin, and metallized silver, bronze,and gold. She used high-quality materials for sporting clothes, for which in America she was called Crazy Krizia. And she continued her stylistic path always with the aim of dressing a truly, feminine woman with an uninhibited spirit. She paid close attention to modern and contemporary art, with some of her clothes being inspired by Kandinsky, pop art, Klimt, Burri, and Calder. There were also historical references, for example, to Gengis Khan and the warriors of Xian. But above any creation, it is her neat and precise touch that stands out: it is extolled in coats and jackets, each one different from the other, some shoulders rounded, some pointed. Brave, enthusiastic and capable of strategic intuitions, she was, with Albini and Missoni, among the first designers to leave Florence for Milan, where she had been presenting her models since the early 1970s. It was the move that began the fashion miracle in Milan. In 1984 she opened her business headquarters in the historical Palazzo Melzi d’Eril in Via Manin and dedicated a particular space as the meeting point for cultural activities, whether exhibitions, concerts, debates, or visits from writers from all over the world. In 1985 she became an associate of the publishing company La Tartaruga. After more than 40 years of success, Mariuccia is still faithful to her beliefs and doing the job that she loves as much as she did on the first day. She is demanding and strict, above all with herself: meticulous, precise, a perfectionist, but also attracted by breaking the rules. On the eve of 2000 she designed 32 annual clothing Collections, included those produced in America, Japan, and China. She has several licenses, from perfumes to bags, glasses, ties, watches, and even sparkling wine. She counts 53 own-brand boutiques around the world, 202 in Japan and more than 600 sales points. She has even designed an exclusive, refined hotel, the K Club, on the island of Barbuda in the Antilles.
Faithful to her belief, Krizia continues to make fashion for a woman free from prejudice. Her designs are an anthem to contradictions, for instance, her fabrics match cashmere and leather, leather and chiffon, chiffon and knitwear: a continuous assemblage of different characteristics which the eclectic designer translates into clothes and accessories. They often have touches of softness for garments that sway around the body: in short, an easy way to dress, with irony, like the giant pied-de-poule for her incredible, seamless handkerchief skirts, and an unerasable imprint on bags that were all the rage in the 2001-2002 season. Krizia and the game of opposites, which continued the following winter: this time the game was played on volumes, now big, now tiny, while in 2003-2004 her woman was a sort of angel-demon. Chaste and scandalous: contrasts in perfect balance. Her shows are always characterized by her fetish animals, especially her beloved printed panther. And her men’s Collection follows this relaxed philosophy: her men are both tender and strong, whimsical in a formal suit with a flowered lining.”
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo displayed Krizia’s work in an exhibition entitled Krizia Moving Shapes. She was the first foreign designer to receive such an honor from the museum.
A separation took place at the beginning of the year between her and the Belgian designer Jean-Paul Knott. The Fall 2003 Collection marked the début of Krizia’s new creative talent, the 34 year old Harrish Marrow, owner of one of the most important London brands.
A special Collection was prepared for oversize women, with a joint venture between Krizia and the group Miroglio. The Per Te Aktive, by Krizia line is the natural evolution of Per Te, by Krizia, which Vestebene-Miroglio has been producing and distributing for many years now. These are young-looking jeans and other garments dedicated to more curvaceous girls.
The year 2002 closed with a decrease of 2%, on a total turnover of €220 million. The result was accepted positively by the company’s top management, considering the state of the world’s economy.
Krizia was among the guests of honor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. The occasion was the event “Fashion, Italian Style”, dedicated to the output of the greatest Italian designers. The Milan boutique in Via della Spiga was reopened, having been restyled by the architect Piero Pinto.