Known for relentlessly mocking the fashion system while at the same time profiting from it, Franco Moschino (1950-1994) used fashion as a platform for theatrical presentations filled with humor, irony, and surrealism. Many of the iconic garments that made him a fashion legend will now be on view in the first American retrospective of his work, VIVA MOSCHINO!
Drawn largely from two Chicago-area private collections as well as institutional loans and the Mint’s own Fashion Collection , the exhibition will focus on the Italian designer’s work between 1983 and 1994, when his designs were worn by rock stars, actors, and other celebrities including Tina Turner . Today, Franco Moschino’s fashions continue to be admired by musicians and performers ranging from Sting to Rihanna , and continues to inspire the designs of the fashion house that bears his name. The exhibition will feature many of the designer’s best known creations, such as the BE SIMPLE! Little Black Dress, Smiley and Domani è un altro giorno jackets, a variety of works from his Cartoon Couture Collection, and a leopard and velvet couture coat from Fall/Winter 1993/1994 of the same design worn recently by Rihanna, along with approximately 40 other full Moschino ensembles and fashion accessories.
“Franco Moschino's fashion designs represent his knowledge and fondness for historic couture, especially the classic designs of Coco Chanel, as well as his deep interest in Surrealism,” said exhibition curator Annie Carlano, the Mint’s senior curator of craft, design, & fashion. “The Mint's exhibition will show the range of sartorial achievement and social commentary in Moschino's oeuvre, a tremendous variety in such a short time span.”
Born in Abbiategrasso, Italy in 1950, Franco Moschino studied painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti , Milan,where he supplemented his income with work as a fashion illustrator. In 1971, he began work as an illustrator for Italian designer Gianni Versace . Following his time at Versace, Moschino went on to work for the fashion house Cadette in 1977 alongside Karl Lagerfeld. In 1983, Moschino launched Moschino Couture!, and created a sensation by dressing model Pat Cleveland in a silk evening dress, sneakers, and a grocery bag. The first Moschino men’s show debuted in 1986, followed by the Fall 1987 men’s collection, which was modeled by women. In 1990 Princess Diana wore a houndstooth Moschino suit to the christening of her niece, Princess Eugenie.
Moschino once declared, “I’m not a fashion designer. I’m a painter, a decorator.”
He was in fact a voracious fashion designer, creating his Moschino Couture! line, as well as Cheap n Chic, Cruise Baby, Moschino Jeans, and accessories. Although he was well-known for the use of ironic and thought-provoking phrases in his designs, such as embroidering “Waist of Money” on a jacket in place of a belt, he was also a master tailor, using fine fabrics in meticulous constructions. He was sometimes accused of being a rebel without a cause, but Moschino often used his ads to campaign for social issues including activism against drugs, violence, and cruelty to animals, and advocacy for environmentalism in fashion production.
In 1991, Moschino deemed fashion shows passé and abandoned them in favor of private presentations. Prior to this decision, Moschino produced outrageous shows, memorably leaving tomatoes and flowers on editors’ chairs so they could express their displeasure or happiness with his collection. In Moschino’s final collection, labeled “Nature Friendly Garment,” the designer introduced an Ecocouture line made with environmentally responsible materials.
Franco Moschino died in September 1994 due to complications from AIDS. In remembrance of the designer’s social consciousness, a portion of Moschino profits now fund the Moschino Foundation, a charity founded to assist HIV-positive children.
In the twenty-first century, the MOSCHINO brand has been reinvigorated and the genius of Franco Moschino has resurfaced in the current designs. Pop stars including Kylie Minogue and Madonna donned Moschino designs throughout world tours and burlesque star Dita Von Teese modeled for the fashion house. During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, placard holders at the opening and closing ceremonies wore Moschino designs. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama selected a Moschino ensemble for her visit to the Vatican.
Today, Jeremy Scott is Creative Director of the Moschino brand, which encompasses labels including Moschino Couture, Boutique Moschino, and Love Moschino, as well as a wide range of accessories, jewelry, perfume, and cosmetics. Recording artist Katy Perry is the current face of the brand. Christina Binkley of The Wall Street Journal recently described Scott’s approach: “He is bent on restoring the flippant energy of the label’s founder, Franco Moschino, who loved to parody fashion icons.”
The legacy of Franco Moschino lives on.