The beating heart of the Foundation is a textile archive of great cultural, artistic and design value. 30.000 antique and modern designs on paper and fabric, 5,000 inspirational volumes and over 2,500 samples of textiles, accessories, and packaging with sustainability features. Catalogued and digitised, they are available to style offices, designers and garment makers for designing collections that enhance the tradition of Made in Italy while respecting the environment and the employees.
Mr. Alberto Masotti is an enlightened entrepreneur and founder of F.FRI, a non-profit organisation established in 2015 in Bologna, aimed at enhancing the heritage of Italian manufacturers, supporting them in the challenges of progress through consulting activities and targeted training courses.
Its beating heart is a textile archive of great cultural, artistic and design value: 30.000 antique and modern designs on paper and fabric, 5,000 inspirational volumes and over 2,500 samples of textiles, accessories, and packaging with sustainability features. Catalogued and digitised, they are available to style offices, designers and garment makers for designing collections that enhance the tradition of Made in Italy while respecting the environment and the employees. The Foundation is a didactic, archival and exhibition centre linked to the territory, of which it enhances the excellence through exhibitions, talks and TV hosted in-depth analysis that over the years have turned it into a meeting, inspirational and updating place for professionals and young people.
Our interview with Mr. Alberto Masotti, founder of the Fashion Research Italy Foundation
How was Fashion Research Italy born? What themes are dear to your Foundation?
Thanks for this first question, because it gives me the opportunity to explain why, after more than fifty years at the helm of a major international brand, I decided to embark on this crazy adventure in 2015. My co-workers call it an 'act of courage' and I can assure you that it took a lot of it, along with a great deal of perseverance and passion on everyone's part that made my wish come true.
A place to highlight the extraordinary history of Italian fashion and at the same time write its future, bringing together experts with a long and valuable experience and young people who are full of ideas and will to work. It’s a versatile structure that gives them the theoretical and practical tools to work together, stimulating each other's creativity through sharing valuable life stories.
This is F. FRI after eight years. We organise courses, consultations, exhibitions, talks and digital columns to share the importance of heritage and sustainability with as many people as possible.
How important is craftsmanship for you and for Made in Italy?
The most important women in my life were craft workers. My grandmother Adalgisa used to make trousseaus for the weddings of neighbourhood families, while my mother Ada spent her childhood playing with scraps of cloth before following her footsteps. I have always been fascinated by that craftsmanship, which I later found in my dearest wife Olga, who designed marvellous corsetry and swimwear collections for La Perla, a historic brand that for years has been synonymous with perfectionism and taste that are typical of the tailoring tradition of Made in Italy.
For me, passion, skill and dedication are the essence of the craftsman. The artist - that's what I would call them today. After passing on the torch of designing modern lingerie to younger generations, I’m continuing to seek it out in the highest forms of craftsmanship that are jealously guarded in our country, sometimes at the risk of being overshadowed by the potential of new, more avant-garde knowledge. Outrageous! In my opinion, the two are not contradictory. On the contrary, why shouldn't we imagine an artificial intelligence capable of modernising the Romagna printing technique?
Your space at Milano Home is dedicated precisely to revisiting this age-old technique. What are the new inspirations?
By establishing this Foundation, I felt I was dedicating a lot of space to training, but it all stemmed from the acquisition, a few years earlier, of one of the most important textile art collections in the world. A collection of over 30,000 drawings made by the greatest graphic designers of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, up to the present day. Watercolours, tempera, collages, and the most diverse techniques, strictly handmade on paper and fabric upon request of fashion designers who went on to make these prints icons of Italian fashion. This heritage was in danger of being dismembered and scattered around the world, so I considered a priority to keep it in Italy as a testimony of our country's unique textile tradition. Hence the name I chose for the foundation - Fashion Research Italy - because the goal was to make such heritage available to new designers who still had the desire to research among these varied fantasies to feed their creativity.
That is exactly what the eight rust-printing masters did when they took part in the Future Tradition project at the beginning of 2023. They immersed themselves in the wonders of our rooms, letting themselves be inspired in the imagination of new creations, on the border between art and high craftsmanship, which are the protagonists of the exhibition that was open to the public from May to July in collaboration with the Associazione Stampatori Tele Romagnole (Romagna Canvas Printers' Association), Ostinelli Seta and Bonaveri.
How important is the theme of sustainability to you?
Valuing corporate culture is a mission that makes us look back to the past, so as to give value to what has been done properly and learn from it. But to be a solid support to the competitiveness of an ever-evolving system like fashion, it is also necessary to remain very attentive to present and future changes. Sustainability is certainly among the most important ongoing challenges. No one can escape from it for the simple reason that - together with digitalisation - it is the most pressing issue for our industry. For this reason, since 2020 the Foundation has been working to help brands in their production choices, trying to encourage the adoption of more sustainable packaging practices.
Rust printing itself, if you think about it, is an act of awareness in this direction: craftsmanship, with its slow processes handed down over time, combined with its limited production, actually represents a truly sustainable choice.
What will you be presenting from 11 to 14 January?
The Artist's Scarves, which I also call Love Scarves, because they would not have come into being without the talent and dedication of the craftsmen I mentioned and their families. With patience and accuracy, they engraved a selection of patterns from our textile archive onto their wooden stencils to decorate, with strokes of mallet, several metres of silk. When the organisers of Milano Home asked us to take part in the fair, it seemed like an unmissable opportunity to show the many visitors how an ancient art can become once again absolutely topical, ranging from the world of fashion to that of furniture.
But I won't tell you more because I hope many visitors will take time to be amazed by the beauty that Made in Italy is still able to offer!