Published in: VIVO Magazine; Winter, 2013.
In the wake of the recent death of famed Italian fashion icon and journalist Anna Piaggi, one hopes the message she personified will not soon be lost. The first time I saw Piaggi, I was on the cusp of igniting an interest in fashion, aged no older than eleven, twelve at most; it was a brief moment as she flashed past the screen, Jeannie Becker exasperated, apologizing on camera, attempting to secure an interview backstage at Chanel. To me, Piaggi looked odd: For one, she wore layers upon layers of clothing, the last of which usually contained some sort of fur; a full face revealing the very essence of eclecticism, topped with the most eccentric hat I could have ever imagined. It was as if a character from Lewis’ Alice in Wonderland had come to life.
The more I watched the fashion scene, however, the more I began to see Piaggi. She was hailed a legend, and only in time did I understand the method in what seemed was her madness. She saw the value in freedom of expression, and refused to give anyone the satisfaction of their doubt. It was easy to judge Piaggi, but beyond the prints and dyed fur, the true message, the humanistic idealism that expelled from her was remarkable. Each waking day, in the form of fashion, she lived out everything she held dear – a noble feat most of us could only hope to accomplish.
Born in Milan on March 22, 1931, Piaggi’s dedication to fashion lasted to the end of her 81 years: With the accumulation of 2,865 dresses and 265 pairs of shoes, she is rumored to never have worn the same outfit in public twice. A writer for Vogue, Editor-in-chief of Vanity, and an addition to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, her personal life was similarly fashionably consumed: It was her marriage to photographer Alfa Castaldi in 1962 which takes credit in truly sparking her interest in Fashion. Piaggi’s eccentricity also played host to a prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition. The museum, the world’s largest in art and design, including fashion and photography, featured the exhibition Anna Piaggi: Fashion-ology, which was met with great success. An inspiration for many, Piaggi most notably influenced Karl Lagerfeld, head designer of Chanel, making her his muse: “Anna invents fashion. She automatically dresses herself as we will dress ourselves tomorrow.”
As noted by the Guardian, Piaggi was “the last of a dying breed in fashion.” Her eccentricity and boldness in choice allowed for true artistic expression, permitting onlookers to, for a moment, forget the growing mass-produced inclination of modern fashion, and embrace only the art.