Walking the quiet streets of Acedemia – Venice, something didn’t quite fit the traditional architecture …From the corner of my eye a vibrant glow caught my attention and drew me in closer. I found myself at the glowing window wide eyed and fascinated by the male mannequin before me, wearing nothing but an embellished thong displaying the phrase “I love my virus”. I knew from the outset, this was going to be a unique experience.
Entering the Fiorella Gallery, I couldn’t help but feel like Alice, in awe of the shining Wonderland that stood before me. The contrast between the streets outside and the rave-like glow inside the store was stark – displaying Fiorella Mancini’s anti-conformist ways. I would be lying if I didn’t say I felt right at home immediately, it was any fashion lover’s dream. Colour, pattern, texture and shape surrounded me. Upon entering the store I was greeted by a friendly member of staff who was happy to let me browse to my heart’s content. I found the reception from the staff to be refreshing along with the genuine conversation that followed, she was happy to give me information on both the designer and the store which demanded my attention the moment I laid eyes on it.
The store was filled with exciting and unusual objects ranging from wacky light fixtures (which Fiorella designed herself) to deconstructed toy children encapsulated within glass chambers. The most fascinating objects to me were the mannequins. Created by Australian artist Rod Dudley, they combine the heads of Venetian Doges (military leaders) with stylised female bodies spawning a mannequin like no other I’ve seen.
My self named ‘Trannequins’ which were once graced with designs by Vivivenne Westwood and Armani during Mancini’s exhibition “I Dogi della Moda” (in 1984 when she chaired the Venetian Fashion Committee) ; each have their own history – adding more quirky charm to the gallery.
Floating majestically upon tassel detailed hangers, amidst the business of the emporium of the weird and wonderful, the garments shone brighter than any of their surroundings. The lights within the store danced across the garments in such a way that drew you in for more, tempting you to come closer. The garments varied from silver screen printed t-shirts to blazers, waistcoats, scarves, shirts and long dress coats that all sparkled in an array of luminous day-glow splendour. The garments were soft to the touch in sumptuous silks and hand dyed velvets. Unusual imagery was printed upon the garments such as skulls and dead fish skeletons juxtaposing the grim with luxurious fabrics. Noticing my interest and sheer amazement the shop assistant asked me if I would like to try on some clothes – how could I possibly resist? I tried three blazers, all of which felt as good as they looked. I was lucky to be trying such unique, luxurious and well crafted garments and was sad to part with them.
I spent a while after exploring the store, taking photographs and absorbing the sheer extravagance of it all before waving farewell to the Fiorella Gallery. A chance encounter with this store provided me with an unforgettable and truly unique experience and for a brief moment of time I stood in my fantasy world where I was the emperor of the velvet army, ringing true the words of Fiorella Mancini “Clothes are like masks: they shelter us from reality”