Born: Abbiategrasso, 1950. Education: Studied fine art, Accademia delle Belle Arti, Milan, 1968-71. Career: Freelance designer and illustrator, Milan, 1969-70; sketcher for Versace, 1971-77; designer for Italian company Cadette, 1977-82; founded own company Moonshadow in 1983; launched Moschino Couture!, 1983; fragrance for women Moschino introduced, 1987; introduced diffusion line, Cheap & Chic, 1988; launched Uomo, menswear collection, 1986,
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"Fashion is full of chic," Franco Moschino once commented, was an ironic statement coming from one of Europe's most successful designers. Based in Milan, Moschino originally studied fine art, with ambitions to be a painter, but came to see that tailoring and fabrics could be just as valid a means of expression as paint and canvas. Consequently, his first job in fashion was with the Cadette label, for whom in 1977 he produced a simple range of stylish clothes.
Starting his own label in 1982, Moschino used his experience in the Italian fashion industry as a source for his philosophical ideas evolving a set of tactics designed to shake the fashion establishment out of its complacency. Much to his amazement, he was embraced with open arms as a new iconoclast by the very people he despised. Essentially Moschino was picking up where Schiaparelli had left off, displaying an interest in the surrealist tactic of displacement—he has for a long time professed a love of Magritte's use of the juxtaposition of incongruous imagery to produce a surreality. This is aptly shown in designs such as his quilted black denim mini with plastic fried eggs decorating the hemline, quilted jacket decorated with bottle tops, plug-socket drop earrings, and bodices made out of safety pins. Moschino's 1989 fun fur collection included a winter coat of stitched together teddybear pelts and a scorch-mark printed silk shirt saying "too much ironing."
Although dubbed the Gaultier of Italian fashion, Moschino responded to fashion differently. Unlike Jean-Paul Gaultier who was interested in playing around with the shapes and the fabrics of fashion, Moschino used basic forms and traditional methods of construction to produce wearable, sexy clothes, cut to flatter and beautifully made. Dismissing his approach as visual and superficial, Moschino stressed he was a decorator, completely disinterested in clothing construction.
Believing he could criticize the business more effectively from the inside, the underlying theme of his work was the parodying of so-called fashion victims, those prepared to be seen in the most ridiculous clothes if they were the latest style, and a general protest against the materialism of capitalism. He did this with visual gags like a triple pearl choker with attached croissant or the Rolex necklace—the pearls and Rolex being traditional ways of displaying wealth—and by mixing cheap plastics with expensive fur.
This parodying of the conspicuous consumers of fashion was continued in 1990 with his use of jokey logos on a series of garments like the cashmere jacket with the words "Expensive jacket" embroidered in gold across its back, or "Bull chic" on a matador-styled outfit. Designs such as these were supposed to make the wearer feel duped into spending vast amounts of money on designer clothing, but after achieving a vast amount of publicity, the people he was attacking flocked to buy his clothes. The iconoclasm of Moschino was destined to become the choicest thing on the catwalk.
Calling for a "Stop to the Fashion System" through his advertising in high fashion magazines, Moschino displayed a classic Dada stance—for an end to the fashion system would mean the destruction of his own empire which came to encompass not just Moschino Couture! but the successful Cheap & Chic range—a diffusion line which was not actually all that cheap—and ranges of underwear, swimwear, jeans, children's clothes, accessories, and fragrances (the men's sold in a double-ended bottle so it can't stand up and the women's advertised with a model drinking it through a straw rather than dabbing it behind her ears).
Known for his theatrical fashion shows (in the past his models impersonated Tina Turner and Princess Margaret), Moschino mixed up and twisted classic styles and wrenched them into the present by using humor. A fine example was a Chanel-type suit restyled with gold clothes pegs for buttons. Interestingly enough, his insults were rarely taken seriously. At one collection he pointedly mocked the top fashion editors by leaving moo-boxes on their seats, implying they were dull bovines with not an original thought in their heads, but they applauded all the more.
Moschino's ambition was to destroy the dictates of fashion so people could please themselves with what they chose to wear, and to produce more anonymous clothes once he completed the downfall of the industry. The irony is that Moschino became his own fashion-asantifashion status symbol; yet his belief that fashion should be fun was valid and remains so today. Unfortunately for Franco Moshino, he was not around to see his plans to fruition—he died in 1994. His funky design firm was carried on after his death, and to dizzying heights of popularity. Soon after Moschino's death, the Franco Moschino Foundation was founded to help children battling HIV and AIDS, and the Moschino firm would routinely design for charities and fundraisers like Artwalk New York.
Fashionwise, Moschino designs lacked the sharpness of Franco's razor wit yet still provided laughs and sales. The company segued into fragrances with the launch of Cheap & Chic in 1995, and opened wildly funky boutiques in Rome and Beverly Hills near the end of the year. More hip shops, in New York City and London, bowed in 1996 and 2000 respectively, while a new sportswear range, Moschino Life, was introduced in 1999. Yet the biggest Moschino news was the firm's acquisition by Aeffe SpA, the burgeoning fashion empire founded by Alberta Ferretti in 2001, which had already produced several Moschino lines.
updated by Sydonie Benét