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Bizzarra in nero

Way before The Sartorialist and the Internet, fashion turned to the everyman for inspiration: Giulio Confalonieri's book published by Missoni in 1978 offers a new and unexpected perspective on the essence of street style

In the 30th century, archeologists will have post-digital tools instead of fingers and will use special visual technology to see what’s in storage boxes left behind in buried houses. Here they will find photos of hundreds of people on the street dressed gracefully and with care as if they were on a fashion runway.



These people will appear both confident and insecure, imperfect and inventive. Photography of street fashions, which has come about thanks to blogs like The Sartorialist, has in the last 10 years become a crucial part of the everyday modern aesthetic. But it’s actually not an innovation of our times. In the last half-century, there have been various forerunners to this trend in the history of fashion. One of the funniest and most peculiar was Bizzarra in Nero, a wonderful, elegant and tiny book published by Missoni at the end of the 1970s.



Bizzarra in Nero, a photographic project by art director Giulio Confalonieri featured a series of images taken by Confalonieri himself on the streets of Milan of all kinds of people. But these people were far from looking stereotypically like they should be on a fashion runway. They were simply allowing themselves to be looked at, allowing themselves to be looked at living or rather not yet “experienced.” These are black-and-white photos of people that we would describe using a horrendous adjective that is very common in all kinds of conversations – “normal.” But what does “normal” mean? Perhaps “statistical.”



And actually the images in this book, which today is impossible to find, are “statistical” in the sense that they correspond to the visual range of images that one associates with that period – the asphalt of the big city, the accompanying hours and days of these individuals that we know nothing about. There are no names. There are no stories. There are clothes, accessories and poses. Most of all, there are the fantastic captions – taken from a few issues of Italian Vogue of those years – which are both descriptive and narrative – and at times obscure – that accompany the clothing worn by the ladies and men portrayed on backgrounds from times gone by. Sometimes they are modest, sometimes gray and sometimes unusually sparkling.



Sometimes they are ultra-realistic. But the descriptions always seem to be written about creations that are highly sophisticated as if these were the pages of Diana Vreeland’s Vogue but with a Baroque twist that is uniquely Italian. And with an interpretation that is both snobbish and delicate, like a stitch in the hem finished with each turn of phrase.



Gianluigi Ricuperati


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