In Homage to Micol Fontana
Micol Fontana, Andrea Spezzigu and Pascal Gautrand, Villa Medici, Rome, 2011
Micol Fontana, one of the three sisters who founded the Sorelle Fontana couture house in Rome in 1943, passed away on 12th June 2015 at the age of 101. In a foreword to the Roman edition of The Women's Tailor-made Guidebook published in 2011, Micol Fontana kindly shared her point of view on the evolution of the fashion system through the story of her own commitments.
During the latter stages of her life, her goal will have been to influence the younger generations by spreading the legacy that she built with her two sisters for almost a half-century of creation. The Micol Fontana Foundation, launched by Micol in 1994, carries on with this mission to this day and keeps alive the memory of these three visionary sisters who played a major part in leading Italian fashion and the Made in Italy to achieve worldwide recognition.
"Since we opened our atelier here in Rome in 1943, amongst my sisters I have always been the globe-trotter, the one who took Sorelle Fontana around the world. Today, at almost one hundred years of age, I still hold many memories. Grandmother and mother already had a small tailor’s shop in Traversetolo, a small village in the North of Italy, near Parma.
I do not know if you know the women of the Po Valley; they are strong women, who take care of their families whilst working at the same time. Holding with tradition, Zoe, Giovanna and I grew up with needle and thread in hand and we liked to think that we had pins running through our veins instead of blood.
In those days – unlike today – in the morning we dressed for the morning, after lunch we dressed for the afternoon and in the evening we dressed for the evening. For us the dress was sacred: it had to beautify and help the person. The secret was to have the right dress put on at the right time. Our advice was obligatory, and this was what our clients loved and appreciated most. The fitting room was transformed into a confessional: in front of the mirror with its three lights, they stood naked and talked about themselves. High fashion was more a psychological than a sartorial concept.
Whilst Zoe and Giovanna always took care of the atelier, I looked after public relations, being good at it. From the United States to Japan, I was always on the move meeting clients. At times, I would go on a film set to look after all the dresses, as at the time I went to Mexico for The Sun Also Rises together with Ava Gardner. At the beginning of the 50’s, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, we were invited to participate in a fashion show next to the Parisian Pierre Balmain: a wonderful gentleman! He spoke perfect English, I, on the other hand, didn’t know even one word in English or in French. And, awe-stricken, I kept my mouth shut. We all know that at that time there was only French fashion, and yet the next day the press recognised Italian talent: we went mad with delight. Who could remain unmoved faced with a similar victory!
I have a big voice – not beautiful, but big – and from that moment on, wherever I went, I always had the desire not only to talk about Sorelle Fontana, but also to spread the word about Italian fashion. I will always remember how all eyes were fixed on me at a gala evening at the Metropolitan, where I was wearing a white dress with a green bob haircut and I wore red lipstick and a bunch of red flowers, a homage to the colours of the Italian flag. I caused a sensation having dared to dye my hair green. This was the beginning of Made in Italy.
Further travels helped me to understand better how the world was changing. They called me the American Auntie. I was always between flights with three sheath dresses in my case – one black, one grey and one blue – and lots of light-coloured jackets to match them. My lifestyle led me to think up practical and modern clothes, which would also respond to the demands from my American clients, themselves always on the move, shopping and picking up the kids. And thus we were among the first Italian high-fashion houses to launch a ready-to-wear line. A life rich in travel, experience and encounters, balanced between tradition and innovation, continuously struggling to uphold our values and create something more, something new, in order to show off my culture, our culture."
The Women's Tailor-made Guidebook is on sale on Made in Town Shop.
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