Behind the birth of Made in Italy there is a woman, Rosa Genoni: the stylist who, drawing from classical art and artisan tailoring, has brought Italian style to the fore by promoting a radical transformation of women's work and contribution

One of the best kept secrets of Italian fashion is the story of Rosa Genoni.

His ever-increasing critical fortune is supported by a precious and rich archive and excellent publications, but more and more his fame is going beyond the confines of the academy.

Her personal events speak for her, the values for which she fought, the objectives achieved, thanks to which she emerges as a true pioneer of Italian fashion design, a fashion that in her vision would had to be based on a radical transformation of women's work and contribution.

She was born in 1867 in Tirano, she from Valtellina she arrives in Milan to study and begin her apprenticeship in her aunt's tailoring.

Her study and work trips will take her to Paris, Brussels and London, where she will breathe Europe and absorb experiences and knowledge that she will put to good use in Italy.

Her insatiable hunger for knowledge was part of her desire to put her harvest to good use. He did this through the artistic direction of an atelier of over 200 workers, with fashion design, with the organization of exhibitions, with teaching, journalism, without forgetting social activism, feminism, work with workers' cooperatives, active support of war refugees, socialist and pacifist ideas.

Since her training in the workshop, her passion has centered around the discovery of processes, of production methods, of the logic of what she herself defines as 'work environments'.

Her declared goal was not the nostalgic recovery of a glorious past, on the contrary, a profound desire to free Italian fashion from subjection to French fashion, to make it an independent fashion on a productive and cultural level.

We recall that between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s a dress, a hat, a bag, a shoe made no sense if they weren't a derivation (or a slavish reproduction) of the idea of a Parisian couturier. A concept such as 'Italian fashion at the turn of the century sounded more or less like thinking of an 'Italian smartphone' today. Possible, certainly, however rather improbable.

But Rosa Genoni had a concrete project.

She was well acquainted with the French fashion of Nice and Paris, she had worked in Brussels, frequented London and Switzerland. She knew where to find raw materials, lace and embroidery. He knew and recruited an excellent workforce and understood the importance of training (for years he would direct the Tailoring section of the School of the Humanitarian Society of Milan), textbooks (he would complete two) and the contribution of the press ( will write for several fashion and political magazines).

She certainly wasn't interested in importing other people's models, on the contrary, she aimed to define original systems </ strong> that could define a new way of doing and thinking.

This is why it promoted the cooperative work of the Italian Women's Industries, in the hope that the Italian supply chain could free itself from the Parisian dernier cri and give life to Made in Italy, a term that in those years was beginning to be used to define a new way of seeing - and showing - Italian design.

For Rosa Genoni, therefore, fashion was not reduced to an artifact, but was the incarnation of a process, of a supply chain, of a system, constituting a complex organism that could grow, become strong and independent: a genuine act of design. Her contribution was also fundamental and lasting because in this vision she was able to stubbornly combine research, processes, business, communication and teaching. </ P>

According to Manuela Soldi - author of the fundamental volume “Rosa Genoni: fashion and politics” – the latter is Genoni's most important area of work: “Without a doubt, the greatest legacy of her multidisciplinary was that of teacher. An action that spanned the first three decades of the twentieth century and trained several generations of workers to be "superior seamstresses" as she called them, those capable of working on the model going beyond the role of mere executing copyist".

Compared to industrial design, due to its still highly artisanal nature, local fashion was struggling to establish itself as an autonomous discipline with a recognizable identity. But these were the years of the great universal exhibitions and Rosa Genoni had the opportunity to show some of her creations at the International Exhibition of Sempione in 1906.

Her choice falls on models inspired by the Italian Renaissance artistic tradition, with a view to redemption </ strong> towards French fashion.

In those years she worked as a première </ em> at the well-known atelier H. Haardt & Sons of Milan, but her employers refuse to be involved in the operation for fear that French suppliers may feel offended. This is why Rosa Genoni finances herself and has her garments made at her home, signing her work with her name and surname.

Starting from the suggestions of past painting is nothing new, but in his case the step forward lies in the idea of starting from the national tradition to propose a new point of view and at the same time building the future of an entire sector.

He doesn't want to make a costume, he doesn't make pure and simple copies of what he finds in galleries and art galleries, on the contrary, he updates their shapes and proportions, aligns them with contemporary needs, puts comfort and performance at the center, demonstrating that the past is a reservoir, not a shortcut.

In his book Manuela Soldi points out that very often the initial inspirations (Pisanello, Mantegna, Botticelli, Leonardo, Carpaccio) are lost and the result is a completely new, original language and unique.

And we are faced with a design process that brings it closer to the great masters of Italian design, those who in the first half of the 1900s ferried Made in Italy from a vernacular vision to the maturity that placed us the beautiful country at the center of the world.

In the fashion field, it is no coincidence that this same method of recovery and relaunch was resumed in 1951 by Giovanni Battista Giorgini for the first fashion show at Villa Torrigiani in Florence, a prelude to the events in the Sala Bianca at Palazzo Pitti , for many the real beginning of Italian fashion.

It is worth emphasizing that this trend is still active and that in more recent times Dolce&Gabbana and Gucci (in the years of Alessandro Michele) have also established themselves in the imagination and in the markets based on a skilful balance of quotations and contemporary language.

So can we consider Rosa Genoni a pioneer of Italian design as we know it today?

“There are many contemporary aspects of a figure like Rosa Genoni - concludes Manuela Soldi - first of all the awareness of the importance of the relationship with the production chains, which see her engaged in a more or less fruitful dialogue with the producers of the semi-finished products necessary for fashion, in an attempt to build an embryonic system”.

And precisely from a system perspective, there are still many things that Rosa Genoni can tell us, above all thanks to her ability to harmonize each of the areas she has touched, studied , deepened, transformed and defined.

From style to education, from processes to the way of communicating them, we are certain that over the years the gratitude of professionals will turn into ever greater recognition by anyone who loves beauty and design.