Our Menswear Dialogue Series continues with the introduction of the recently released Assouline publication; "The Man Who Was Brioni". Classic tailoring aficionados will no doubt be familiar with the name Brioni and the quality of the label's garments. However, this book dives deep into the life of Mr. Gaetano Savini; founder of the eponymous brand and the lives it affected from the Savini children, to the droves of men the label has dressed and the culture it has influenced.
Co-authored by Ms. Michelle Finamore; curator of fine arts at the Boston Museum and clothing historian, the tome pays homage to the vision, the work, and the life of an Italian icon. Here, we speak to Ms. Finamore in depth about her experience writing the book and her thoughts on the Brioni legacy.
"The Man Who Was Brioni" available at Assouline mid October.
Image Granted ~ You have an illustrious history as the curator of fine arts at the Boston Museum. How did this particular project come about and why did you decide it was right for you at the time?
Michelle Finamore ~ When co-authors Lea della Cagna and Fernando Morelli visited me at the museum a few years ago to discuss the possibility of an exhibition on Brioni, I was in the midst of writing an exhibition proposal for an exhibition on the broader history of 20th century menswear. It was so serendipitous that they visited right at that moment! I think menswear is an understudied subject in the field of fashion history so it seemed like all the stars were aligning to pursue an exhibition and a publication.
IG ~ How is writing a book different from curating collections at a museum? How did thus project challenge you professionally and personally?
MF ~ Well many exhibitions do have catalogues that come out when the show opens. This is a slightly different pattern because the book is coming out before the menswear exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston which we hope to open in 2017. It was very helpful to delve into the subject so far in advance of the show because it helped me think about what I might like to eventually include in the exhibition that would best represent Brioni's contributions to menswear. And start thinking about how to track them down! It challenged me both professionally and personally because we have a very busy exhibition schedule in the Textiles and Fashion Arts Department at the Museum of Fine Arts.
From an intellectual perspective, I was somewhat outside of my comfort zone; I have deep knowledge of 20th century women's fashion, but with menswear it was a steeper learning curve.
IG ~ Were you familiar with the Brioni story prior to this project? If so, what were your perceptions? Did they change for the better or worse after the project? If not, how were you enlightened by the Brioni story?
MF ~ I was somewhat familiar with the Brioni story but not well-versed in the complete history of its founder Gaetano Savini. Indeed there are no books on the subject, so this was a great opportunity to examine his life in more detail. I knew that he was the creative force behind the label but by the time I finished the project, I was impressed by his wide range of talents - not only was he incredibly innovative in his approach to menswear design, he was a brilliant marketer, and a tireless worker completely dedicated to his craft and his vision.
IG ~ Working with the children of deceased icons can be a difficult proposition. How was it working with he daughter of Mr. Savini? Did she have any input into the process or the outcome? If so, how did her opinions sway your depiction of the man himself?
MF ~ Mrs. Savini made it very clear that she wanted this book to be a celebration of the father she loved, but she also wished to place his contributions to menswear within the wider context of fashion history. She was very hands-off in terms of the content, leaving the research to Lea and Fernando. It was, however, incredibly important to have her involved because she is the embodiment of the Brioni story.
Mrs. Savini was intimately involved in the business from a very early age, traveling with her father to help expand the brand, and managing the womenswear line. It was very rewarding to pore over the family archive with her - her personal anecdotes and obvious adoration of her father made it a very special project. And on a practical level, she helped us to fill in valuable details that are often lost to history when they are not recorded.
IG ~ What do you expect people to get from reading this book? What is the reaction you hope to elicit from the reader? If there is something you'd like to pass on through this project what would it be?
MF ~ I hope that readers come away from this book with a fuller understanding of the creative energy and passion behind Brioni, as well as a deeper understanding of how one small tailor's shop in Rome profoundly affected the history of 20th century menswear.