“Fashion and football fans, they are tribes. They are tribes with fanatic feelings.”
This is how, simply and briefly, Lapo Cianchi, secretary general of the Foundation Pitti Immagine Discovery, sums up the core concept and title of a new exhibition, "Fanatic Feelings - Fashion Plays Football", currently taking place in the historic city of Florence.
The show’s co-curator, Markus Ebner, founder of German fashion magazine Achtung Mode, adds: “Fashion has fanatic elements - get the look of the season - while football is fanatic every season. Fans follow both, the shows and matches, fanatically.”
Florence is no stranger to either football or fashion. Since the 16th century, the Calcio Storico Fiorentino (a game that is, admittedly, a closer cousin to rugby in its violence and rules than today’s iteration of football), has been played in Florentine squares every June, while the very first Made in Italy fashion show took place at the Sala Bianca, inside the Pitti Palace, in 1951. Twice a year, every January and June, fashion tribes descend on the city for Pitti Uomo, one of the biggest menswear events on the international fashion calendar.
And so, the perfect storm for a fusion of fashion and sport was created, quite simply, Ebner says, because “it’s a World Cup year”.
Fanatic Feelings is a multimedia and multi-sensory experience. It takes place inside the Santa Maria Novella Complex, a venue chosen, according to Cianchi, “because of the beauty of the main refectory, which was used as a dining hall in the military school that was the former institution based in this building.”
Portraits of famous soccer players drawn by fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld and Japanese fashion illustrator Hiroshi Tanabe share the venue with an extensive look into the rich archives of Sepp Football Fashion (another magazine creation by Ebner combining, you guessed it, fashion and football). There are images dating back to 2002, as selected by contemporary art critic Francesco Bonami, the co-curator of Fanatic Feelings. Also featured around the exhibit are the instantly recognisable faces of players such as Kaka, Edinson Cavani, Jérôme Boateng or Mesut Özil, while a special Street Style section highlights fashion and sport icons like David Beckham, Neymar and Franck Ribéry, looking at what they like to wear after training or games.
Zidane: A 21st century portrait, a 2006 documentary by artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, also screens throughout the exhibit, which is on until July 22.
As more and more of us work from home, the trend towards sports-inspired fashion (the tracksuit approach to everyday dressing) has taken over, with everyone from top designer brands to high-street shops jumping on the bandwagon. When The National asks the classically chic Cianchi about his thoughts on this sportive trend, he says: “This relationship between sportswear, streetwear and modern elegance, let’s say tailoring, is fascinating; it’s interesting but it’s really dangerous. Because the border between elegance and vulgarity is very, very thin.”
The one thing that has always defined Pitti Immagine, the organisation that plans all the Pitti events in Florence and Milan throughout the year (children’s, fragrances and food weeks among them) has been elegance. And with the presence of the German quintessential cool man Ebner, collaborating with anti-establishment, Florence-born art curator Bonami, Fanatic Feelings proves no exception.
Running concurrently with the exhibit is a Fanatic Feelings Market, for which Ebner and Bonami handpicked a small group of designers to make one-of-a-kind football fashion pieces. Among the offerings are special handmade footballs created by Paul Surridge, the new creative director of Roberto Cavalli, pieces by German leather company MCM and fashions by Alessandro Sartori for Z Zegna.
Cianchi explains that with the market, they “wanted to involve some smart designers to quickly and lightly create something for this exhibition, of course related to fashion”.
The setting of the market is notable, as it is built like a ticket booth within a stadium. “Physically, we wanted to reproduce the atmosphere of a small and maybe sometimes dirty little spot where fanatic football fans might gather and buy something, or even steal something to take away,” Cianchi elaborates.
The obvious Eastern European feel and aesthetic of the exhibit are due not only to Russia being the current host of the World Cup but also contemporary fashion trends. “Fashion has, thanks to Gosha [Rubchinskiy] and Demna [Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s latest creative director], an Eastern European, 1980s look,” Ebner explains. “High fashion, I mean, so to combine their roots with current events like the World Cup seems obvious.”
Finally, football is filled with personal heroes, and everyone has a favourite player, or a beloved icon of the sport. For Ebner, they are “[the late] Johan Cruyff and a young Maradona”, while for Cianchi, his dream football team would include “Garrincha, the right wing of the Brazil team in the 1960s and Diego Armando Maradona because they are linked to an idea of contradictory redemption… a kind of profane religiosity.”
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