Rosemary Mac Cabe

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Anna Piaggi, dead at 81, not soon forgotten

If you were awake at all last week (and not distracted to the point of blindness by the Olympics) you will have seen the news that Anna Piaggi, Italian fashion writer and style icon, died at the age of 81. …

Mon, Aug 13, 2012, 10:30

   

If you were awake at all last week (and not distracted to the point of blindness by the Olympics) you will have seen the news that Anna Piaggi, Italian fashion writer and style icon, died at the age of 81. Whether or not you knew much of her career, hers is a face you will undoubtedly recognise – she was known as the most eccentric dresser in all of Italy, although I think it would be fair to extend that definition worldwide.

Piaggi was born in 1931 in Milan, where her father was manager of La Rinascente, one of Milan’s foremost department stores. She died when Piaggi was seven and she was sent to a boarding school, which she once described as “severe”. She was working as a translator when she met Alfa Castaldi, who she would go on to marry and collaborate with (Castaldi was a photographer) until his death in 1995.

Piaggi was fashion editor and stylist on the monthly Arianna magazine in the 1960s; from there, she went on to be creative consultant for Italian Vogue. Manolo Blahnik said of Piaggi: “Her pages are the reason to read Vogue. Every month is a shock.” The milliner Stephen Jones said that Piaggi was “about the possibility of what fashion can be”; Karl Lagerfeld once released a book of sketches of Piaggi.

Piaggi was influential not because everybody wanted to look like her, but because everybody wanted to be able to pull it off; she wasn’t envied, she was admired. She didn’t invite jealousy; she invited awe. Piaggi was a woman who didn’t play on her femininity; for her, fashion wasn’t about sex appeal or “beauty” in simplistic terms. It was about the beauty of the unexpected, the beauty of the shock factory; the beauty of innovation, creation and experimentation. She will be missed.

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