Anna Piaggi — famed stylist, muse and Italian Vogue editor — wore hats, lots of hats, the more outlandish the better, much to the delight of her bestie, Stephen Jones. Rivaling his friend in eccentricity, the English milliner has curated a new exhibition in Milan, Hat-ology, in tribute to Piaggi, who died last year.
In tableau style, the exhibition recreates her quirky, packed Milanese apartment, showcasing 150 of the roughly 800 hats she owned. Among them is Jones's favorite piece that he made for her, "a coquettish Union Jack top hat. She wore it to the opening of her exhibition Fashion-ology at the Victoria and Albert museum in 2003." Naturally he named it Anna P.
Together, the items in Hat-ology create a kind of autobiography of Piaggi, going as far back as her marriage to photographer Alfa Castaldi and her friendship with Karl Lagerfeld early in their careers. It says something that when the book The Beautiful Fall came out — which chronicled the tumultuous relationship between Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent, and included some of young Piaggi's exploits — she thought it was "very restrained."
Yet despite her over-the-top style, Jones remembers another side of Piaggi. "She was very family-oriented and doted on her brother," he recalls. "She came from a bourgeois Milanese family and reinvented herself from a rather normal duckling to a magnificent swan." His fondest memory of her is "welcoming me at her home in her Fendi print pyjamas with matching teddy bear. She believed that fashion was self-expression and loved the history of every piece she owned."
Piaggi's collection of hats and clothing, conserved by the London College of Fashion, belongs to the Associazione Culturale della Moda Italiana. There are plans for a larger exhibition in 2015, featuring the full extent of her wardrobe, so vast that it's still being cataloged, says Jones. "The 800 hats have been done, but what about the 1500 dresses, 63 fans, scarves, shoes, sunglasses?"
Hat-ology, through November 30, 2013, Palazzo Morando Costume Moda Immagine, Milan