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Review: Missoni Art Colour

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★★★

The Fashion and Textile Museum’s ‘Missoni Art Colour’ exhibition is visually stunning, filled with Missoni garments with iconic bright colours and bold stripes. The mannequins may be inanimate, but the clothes that they wear are dynamic and vibrant, adding life and energy to the exhibition.

Supported by MA*GA and TheWoolmark Company, the exhibition explores artistic influences on Missoni designs, drawing attention to the central importance of flat colour to the Italian fashion house’s garments.

Whilst European painters deconstructed art in the 20th century by breaking down forms and structures to create abstract images, fashion was facing an upheaval of tradition in parallel with the visual arts.

Founded by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni in 1953, the fashion house Missoni has a history of notoriety. Missoni’s success began to rocket when in 1967 models were sent onto the catwalk at Palazzo Pitti in Florence without bras underneath their clothing. Under the bright lights, the models’ breasts were visible through the sheer fabrics and Missoni became infamous for challenging conventional notions of decency.

Walking through ‘Missoni Art Colour’ is like travelling through the creation process of Missoni garments from initial inspiration, to the manufacture of textiles, before reaching the finished products.

Despite the exhibition being predominantly fashion-oriented, the first section is surprisingly void of clothes. In a corridor-like-space leading to the main room of the exhibition is a selection of paintings that inspired the fashion designs. Colourful, abstract works by leading 20th century artists such as Sonia Delaunay and Gino Severini are displayed to give a sense of the artistic climate at the time Missoni was emerging.

The relevance of the paintings becomes clear when moving on to the second part of the exhibition. With multi-tonal woven wool hangings on the walls and a spatially dominating pyramid of mannequins dressed in Missoni garments, it is impossible to miss the significance of colour and abstraction in the textiles’ designs.

It felt oddly intimidating to stand beneath the confronting rows of motionless mannequins. As colours clash and conventions are challenged, the clothes stand far removed from the traditions of fashion from the first half of the 20th century.

It was slightly disappointing that the artistic influences and Missoni clothes felt detached from one another, displayed in separate spaces in the exhibition despite the intrinsic links between the art and fashion objects. This slightly broke up the exhibition’s fluidity of following the creative process.

Nonetheless, ‘Missoni Art Colour’ is definitely worth a visit. The exhibition’s colourful examples of art and fashion are guaranteed to brighten up your day.

‘Missoni Art Colour’ can be seen at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, until 4 September 2016.

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