European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Rosa Genoni: Fashion of Pure Italian Art

1900sItalian fashionItalian style

The woman who took the fist step to emancipate Italian fashion from the hegemony of French couture

At the beginning of the twentieth century a notable obstacle prevented Italian fashion from taking off: the impossibility of establishing itself internationally was in fact due to the hegemony of the Parisian Haute Couture. In order to be able to create a scenario with International credit, Italy had first of all to become aware of its own potential and to acquire an independence towards the cultural hegemony of Paris. The first signs of change can be identified towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the energies of the country began to be turned towards a re-evaluation of Italian creativity.

The key figure of this change was Rosa Genoni, a skilled seamstress with good knowledge of French couture, a great expert of the history of Italian art, as well as a leading figure in the movement for female emancipation. Genoni stood out in the Italian panorama for the idea of ​​promoting a national style. In 1906, Genoni presented at the Milan International Exposition a series of models that were inspired by the style of some great masters of Italian Renaissance art, such as Pisanello and Botticelli.
The pavilion where Genoni’s models were exposed won the Grand Prix of the Jury. The success achieved and her tireless promotion led to the creation of a committee for a “Fashion of pure Italian art” chaired by a nobleman, Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone.

The elements that characterised this pioneering initiative by Genoni were, on the one hand, the attempt to give new impetus to Italian sartorial creativity, freeing her from submission to the Haute Couture, with the aim of individuation its own original features; on the other hand, the connection with Renaissance art, a combination capable of ennobling this operation – and fashion – from a cultural point of view, also attributing it to a label of sure international appeal.