“He discovered the secret of a craft that would allow women to walk the world in luxurious borate fabrics in which Venice dressed her aristocrats” (Marcel Proust in the novel In Search of Lost Time)
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was a Spaniard. He was born 1871 in Granada. In the first half of the 20th century, he was more famous than Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret. His greatest passions were fashion and textiles. Fortuny designed furniture and lighting fixtures. He was a photographer, set designer, painter and engraver. His fame did not survive the modern-day democratic changes. This remarkable artist lived in Venice, where today there is a museum that has his name.
Fortuny began his career as a painter. In 1888 he moves to a 15th-century Gothic palace called Orfei, Venice. The Orfei Palace belonged to the Pesaro family. Venice was a meeting point for many cultures and an inexhaustible source of inspiration for talented artists. Fortuny boldly experimented with fabric colors. The colors, thanks to complex chemical processes, acted as Venetian channels “pale and dull”. The gowns in his oeuvre resembled the garb of ancient goddesses or Renaissance nobles. They were modern while allowing freedom of movement. Paul Poiret pointed out that he had liberated women from the tyranny of the corset, but Fortuny was the first to design dresses that closely followed the beauty of the natural line of a woman’s body.
The most famous dress designed by Delphos by Fortuny (the name comes from the Greek shrine of Delphi) was made in 1907. The dress resembles a rectangular piece of delicately pleated silk. On a woman’s body, she transforms into a minimalist and refined evening gown. On each side were murano glass beads that held the form of a dress and it was casually falling down the body. The most famous fashionistas and artists of the time (Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, Ana Pavlova) wore a Delphos dress. Writer Marcel Proust had inspiration in the Marquis of Greffulhe for his heroine Guermantes. In Prosut’s book, The Search for the Lost of Time, Guermantes wears Fortuny’s fashion creations. Fortuny is recognized worldwide as a connoisseur of high-class rituals that strive for perfection and stay away from fashion trends. American heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, jewelry designer Tina Chow, model Natalia Vodianova dress or wear Delphos dresses. Fortuny never discovered the chemical process by which he achieved the perfect lasting pleat on that dress. With her creations, fashion designer Fortuny has made it easier for women to endure and embrace sudden social and cultural change at the beginning of the 20th century. An interesting fact is that Fortuny created Delphos as a home dress for women to be graceful and without the tyranny of corsets. However, women began to wear the dress to theaters, to concerts, to restaurants.
The owner of the Paris-based Lanvin manufactory (www.lanvin.com ), Jeanne Lanvin, also regularly bought models of this kraetor. Fortuny created his creations at Orfei Villa. He decorated the rooms with antiques, works of art, and with his fabrics with oriental motifs and lighting fixtures, which he designed and transformed into warm interiors.
Fortuny had fashion shows in Venice, on Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris and near Bond Street in London. Fortuny, like other artists of the time (Willima Morris, Sergei Diaghile), had a fear of sudden changes due to industrialization, so he turned to the past. In addition to dresses, Fortuny created dresses, tunics, kaftans, jackets, coats inspired by the Italian Renaissance and the cultures of northern Africa and Greek Crete. In designing clothes, Fortuny relied on traditional crafts and science. His workshop employed about a hundred workers. The workshop was led by Frenchwoman Henriette Negrin, wife of Fortuny. Henritte was a skilled tailor and directed Fortuny’s career to fashion design. Fortuny has protected most of his inventions with patents thanks to his skillful business.
The style of this Spanish artist inspires many other artists: Issey Miyake (www.isseymiyake.com )(Pleats Please fashion line), the Valentino fashion house (www.valentino.com )that evoked Fortuny’s style at the 2016 Spring Collection. The new owner and creative director of Fortuny Fashion House is Michael Riad. Riad says his version of the Delphos dress revealed the secret of the original Fortuny plise. Riad encourages further consideration of the role of fashion and design in contemporary art.
Before his death in 1949, Fortuny stated, “I was interested in many things, but painting was my true job.”
Fortunyi’s entire creative work should not be forgotten but encouraged and remembered with respect and cock.