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The 150th anniversary of artist, designer, and inventor Mariano Fortuny will be celebrated in the year 2021. To promote this forward-thinking historical figure in fashion, creator of the Delphos gown and the Knossos scarf, leading personalities from his hometown Granada have established the Asociation FortunyM Culture.

The figure and personality of Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo is one of the most relevant in fashion history. Born in the beautiful Andalusian town of Granada (Granada 11th May 1871-Venice 3rd May 1949) Fortuny y Madrazo stood out as a creative force from a young age. His artistic parents encouraged his creative outlets and he has brought up in Paris where he met and was influenced by artists at the end of the XIX century.

But it was Wagner’s creative ideology that most impressed young Fortuny y Madrazo. Wagner controlled all the theatrical aspects, scenography and lighting, in the staging of his opera dramas as intrinsic parts of the plot. He believed creators and technicians should work together from idea to realization.

Many Wagner followers, including Fortuny y Madrazo, believed that a product’s artistic quality is dependable on the artist having a solid knowledge of the materia prima used and the construction process. The creator should be in control of all the steps in the creative process to result in the best designs, both from an aesthetic and functional point of view.

L / Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo / Self-Portrait 1947 / tempera on cardboard / Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia-Museo Fortuny . R / Portrait of Henriette Negrin, Fortuny’s wife, 1915 / Tempera on cardboard / Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia-Museo Fortuny.

This concept, together with the currents at the time launched by the British Arts & Crafts Movement and the Mingei thinkers in Japan, established the prolific creator’s ideology. From Venice, Italy, where Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo established, he famously stood out as a set designer, contributing many key patents and inventions still used today in the theatre, as well as many fashion inventions such as the pleating techniques used in his famed Delphos Gown.

L / Delphos and Peplos Dresses, 1910-1930 Venice, Museo Fortuny © Archivio fotografico Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia/Paolo Utimpergher. R / Delphos Dress (pleated silk taffeta, after 1909) on the background: The Fortune (tempera on canvas, undated).

Regarding fashion, his marriage to French seamstress Henriette Negrin, stimulated the creation of the Delphos gown at the turn of the 20th century as a rebellion against established dress codes at the time. The piece was a pleated shift dress inspired in the Greek classics. The Delphos gown included Murano crystal beads to weigh down the dress. Fortuny created not only a special pleating technique, but he also devised dyes to create a range of models which were an immediate fashion hit with the influencers at the time such as Isadora Duncan, Countess Greffulhe, Elenora Duse or Ellen Terry.

Museo Fortuny © Archivio fotografico Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia/Paolo Utimpergher

The Knossos scarf followed suit. A square piece of silk, it was devised to be wrapped around the body and worn as a veil, a cloak, a skirt, a dress. The fashion piece was highlighted by the printed motifs in the cloth, stamped with wooden blocks, another technique left to the fashion world by Fortuny y Madrazo. The artist was also a leading textile designer. His printed textiles are still being sold today and they are highly valued as a timeless modern in interior design.

This beautiful image was taken early 20th century in Fortuny Palace, Venice represents totally Fortuny y Madrazo’s creative ideology If you look closely you’ll observe the mannequins are cardboard cutouts in a striking fashion model pose. The scene was obviously staged with detail and I love that it looks like the backstage of a fashion show today.

Monetizing his creativity was another area talented, forward-thinking Fortuny y Madrazo was good at. The creator funded his creative investigations, and his artistic lifestyle in his Venetian Palazzo, filled with decorative arts collections from ancient Greece and Oriental cultures, by marketing with great success his textile and fashion designs, and patenting most of his inventions. In this aspect, he was a true innovator showing the way for future fashion designers to establish financial independence through marketing collections of quality design products, hand designed and hand made.

There is just not enough space in this post to detail Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo’s full contribution to the world of fashion, theatre, textiles, and photography. His next key anniversary in 2021 is an excellent opportunity to delve into the life of this extraordinary artist and serve as an inspiration for new generations of fashion designers regarding the excellence of design and the ability to monetize creative products.

FortunyM Culture was presented, within the activities of Madrid’s urban fashion festival Madrid es Moda by designer from Granada Pilar Dalbat, President of the cultural association, Charo Izquierdo current Director of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid, and Pepa Bueno, Managing Director of ACME.

Fortuny Palace in Venice is totally worth a visit to all fans and followers of Fortuny y Madrazo.

Thanks so much to Museo Fortuny for the images that illustrate this post.

Museo del Traje in Madrid also holds an interesting Fortuny y Madrazo collection.

Making Fashion Happen!

To be continued…