Dear Shaded Viewers,
Rome is the kind of city where, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you suddenly find yourself in a secret subterranean auditorium, or a remarkably preserved Roman house from the 3rd century A.D., or a lavish aristocratic garden tucked away in the otherwise baleful domain of Termini. These locations, it should be noted, are generally off-limits to tourists. Organized by Alta Roma, this TALE(nt) of ROME tour was the logical extension of this season’s Grand Tour exhibition staged by A.I. Artisanal Intelligence at the former customs station of Ex Dogana.
As we hopscotched across the centuries on an oven-hot yet bone-dry day, we eventually landed in the 20th century (the idyllic 1920s) for a compelling display of 21st-century fashion designs ingeniously juxtaposed with airplane fuselages and hulking, strangely beautiful industrial machines. The space, Itis Galilei, is a complex consisting of workshops and technical spaces, that was attended by 1,251 students during the mid-to-late 1920s. To equip this industrial Roman institute with the necessary structures to teach young people about vocational trades, a public tender, won by the architect Marcello Piacentini in 1920, was proclaimed.
Strolling through the yawning hangars of the institute, I couldn’t help meditating on Monica Vitti’s anxiety-fraught wander through a petrochemical plant during the opening scenes of Antonioni’s 1964 masterpiece, Red Desert. (I was mainly struck by the similarities of the machine shops’ color palette—industrial grey, forest green, fire-engine red—with that of the plant in the film.) Fortunately, unlike the film, there were no violent eruptions of steam or sludge-drenched wastelands—only glasses of chilled goji-berry juice and delightful fashions.
These uplifting ensembles are from Milan-based brand San Andrès Milano, founded in 2006 and a finalist at the 2012 edition of Who Is On Next.
San Andrès Milano’s designer, Andrès Caballero, is Mexican by birth, Milanese by adoption. He attended the Marangoni Institut of fashion in Milan, later specializing in Haute Couture at the American Academy of Paris. His collections, which blend the qualities of traditional tailoring and a contemporary design, have gained well-deserved attention.
Milanese handbag designer Giancarlo Petriglia started his career in the style office of Trussardi, where he was the artistic director for eight years. He has also collaborated with Nicolas Ghesquière, Vincent Darré and Mariuccia Casadio, to name a few. In September 2011, he decided to launch his own-name line of bags which were an instant hit. In 2012, he took home 1st Prize in the Accessories category at Who Is On Next?
A bag by Massimo Mariotti for his brand De Couture. An early winner at Who Is On Next? (he won 1st Prize for Accessories in 2006), Mariotti has worked as a designer and product manager for Versace Jeans Couture, Romeo Gigli and Calvin Klein Jeans.
The Auditorium of Maecenas was discovered in 1874, following the proclamation of Rome as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The building was part of a monumental, luxurious residential complex commissioned by Gaius Cilnius Maecenas—an ally, friend and political advisor to Octavian as well as an important patron for the new generation of Augustan poets, including both Horace and Virgil. The Auditorium’s pictorial decorations date back to the beginning of the 1st century A.D. It was an awe-inspiring backdrop for the light-hearted designs of Marianna Cimini.
A native of the Amalfi Coast, Cimini relocated to Milan to attend courses at the Instituto Marangoni. She won the Moda Italia prize, was a finalist at the prestigious Next Generation competition as well as at the Mango Awards and Who Is On Next in 2014. She has worked as a senior designer for S Max Mara and designed a capsule collection for Tod’s. Her designs are distinguished by a minimalist aesthetic combined with a Mediterranean playfulness.
Two views of the Auditorium: The interiors of its wall niches are frescoed to resemble windows, giving on to lush gardens filled with baths, fountains and small flying birds. Above them, a large frieze on a black background features Dionysus-like scenes and miniature gardens. Similar portrayals can also be seen on the curved wall at the back. The effect is that of an underground “garden.”