National Institute of Fashion

Established by the Fascist government on October 31, 1935, as a result of the economic sanctions placed against Italy by the League of Nations following its abortive colonial war in Abyssinia. The purpose of the foundation of the Institute was to promote self-sufficiency in clothes production. It was created on the basis of the Independent Institute of the Permanent Fashion Exhibition, which, founded in Turin in 1932, had the task to prompt fabric manufacturers, ateliers, and accessory manufacturers to Italianize the national wardrobe. The decree that created the Institute forced Italian fashion operators to declare what they were doing and making, in a sort of self-census, and in exchange they were given a sort of brand confirming the “Italian nature of the fabric used and inspiration injected” of at least 50% of their designs, of which they had to submit copies. The need for designers to provide copies of their creations was too complicated, so the Institute agreed to make do with a photo or a sketch. The Institute also had the right to schedule the calendar of the presentation of the collections, which it arranged several months in advance of the French collections, to limit the Italian dependence on Paris designers. In 1937, a special corps of vigilantes was created to search through the storerooms of the ateliers and to fine those who maintained an association with French designs up to 2,000 lire. In 1939 a golden badge was created to be assigned to the most deserving (i.e., “Italian”) collections based on the criteria of the “nobility of manufacturing and technical and artistic qualities.” During the war, the Institute invited the Italian clothes-makers to base their creations on national customs. Its activity was not completely in vain, in particular for those people who made lace, straw articles, and passementerie by hand. But it was also capable of complete nonsense, for example, when in 1937 in a campaign was undertaken that proclaimed that sometimes fashion “distracts women from their domestic life, from their fundamental purposes: this happens because of the fashion for imported designs (…), which intends to transform a woman into a young and desirable beauty, rather than a mother.” Presidents of the Institute were Thaon di Revel, and Earl Giriodi Panissera di Monastero. Director general was Vladimiro Rossini.