Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Fiorucci

When I studied in Milan in the mid-1980s, Fiorucci store was a place of pilgrimage for nascent designers. In visual terms, the store looked like a complete opposite of MOSS: noisy, cramped, full of tourists, cluttered with colorful screaming things. If anything, it was a design version of Oriental bazaar. One could always be sure to find something new, weird, and unexpected.

Elio Fiorucci came from the family of shoe makers. Ever since his first success, making galoshes in primary colors instead of black, he loved color and pattern. In a typical Italian way, he made no distinction between furniture, clothing, and fun novelties, and his store mixed everything together. The shop’s windows on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele became an important stage for the most outrageous projects and performances of New Italian Design. Alessandro Mendini’s Dress Furniture was shown there, and so were Memphis objects and installations. In The Hot House, Andrea Branzi calls the place “one of the most progressive and well-informed cultural milieus in Milan”. (Some people will say the same about Fiorucci’s short-lived New York shop, but that’s another story, not mine.)

Among endless accessories produced by Fiorucci every summer season was this irresistible silk wrap. Two stylized grotesque types are having a drink on the beach, with a bomb falling in the background. The colors and the style unmistakably point to Nathalie du Pasquer, one of the original Memphis designers. Hardly any design student of today will have any sympathy to this strange drawing, prescient and dated at the same time. Yet back in the 80s, this wrap was too precious for me to put it to any practical use; instead, it hung on the wall like an odd tapestry in my shared apartment in Milan. Who knows, maybe the idea of my future Buildings of Disaster was hatched while contemplating this dystopian image.

After many financial troubles and changes of ownership, Fiorucci store finally closed its doors in 2003. There is no other place like that in Milan today.