The first American retrospective of legendary Italian fashion designer Franco Moschino (1950-1994), Viva Moschino!, is currently on view through April 3, 2016, at Mint Museum Uptown in Charlotte, NC.
Moschino, who created his eponymous brand in 1983, was something of a provocateur, known for mocking the fashion establishment and simultaneously profiting from it. His design aesthetic was a dichotomy. He created couture clothing made with fine fabrics and outstanding craftsmanship while also expressing his personal philosophies through their construction and the application of symbols, words and phrases.
According to Joel Smeltzer, head of schools and gallery programs at The Mint Museum, Moschino considered himself a conceptual artist, a painter, and a decorator rather than a fashion designer. In fact, he asserted, Moschino was the antithesis of a designer and relished his role as an ultimate outsider.
“Moschino wanted to liberate women from the excesses of fashion that were prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s,” Smeltzer noted. “The fashion business said women must buy new pieces each season, then not wear them the next season, instead buying the new season’s trends. Moschino said no.”
Moschino’s approach and the clothes themselves appealed to strong, independent individuals. As such, his main clients were celebrities, including pop stars Sting and Madonna, and novelist Jackie Collins.
Mint Museum Uptown organized the exhibit according to six broad themes that ran through Moschino’s work: Social Commentary, Surrealism, Cartoon Couture!, Homage to Chanel, Italianita (the essence of being Italian), and Sartorial Splendor. Representative fashions from each area include:
Social Commentary: Moschino was whimsical, irreverent, nationalistic, political and controversial. He tweaked his version of fashion’s iconic “little black dress” with the words “BE SIMPLE” in stark white.
Surrealism: Moschino festooned the jacket of a dinner suit with cutlery. The front of his faucets suit sports sink faucets.
Cartoon Couture!: Moschino’s love of the Olive Oyl character is evident in a playful off-white suit bordered with black silhouettes of Popeye’s sweetheart.
Homage to Chanel: He reinterpreted Chanel’s classic, comfortable black suit and her preference for wearing multiple strands of pearls by emblazoning his boxy “Peace and Pearls” jacket with pearls arranged in a peace sign.
Italianita: Proud to be Italian, Moschino referenced his native country in his artistry, often poking fun at well known images. His Colosseum suit spoofs the Roman amphitheater, and a T-shirt carries the image of Mona Lisa.
Sartorial Splendor: Moschino paired elements of raw avant garde deconstruction with refined tailoring. A black jacket bears slashes.
Throughout the exhibition are five symbols of Moschino’s fashion company: the smiley face, for happiness and positivity; the cow, for relaxation and the natural world; the question mark, for life’s mysteries; the peace sign, for anti-violence; and the heart, for love.
Mint Museum Uptown drew largely from private collections, institutional loans, and its own fashion collection to curate Viva Moschino! The Charlotte museum is the only venue where Viva Moschino! will be shown, which adds to its significance and allure for both fashion aficionados and travelers alike.
When you go
Mint Museum Uptown
500 South Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
Click here for other articles by Mary Gilbert. You also can read her travel stories on her blog, The Roads Traveled, at theroadstraveled.com.