Anna Piaggi, Vogue Italia contributing editor and ultra-kooky fashion icon is dead at 81. She was found in her Milan home on the morning of August 7th, 2012, with no cause of death released so far. Piaggi may have been a fashion journalist, but she was not content to simply write about designer collections. Piaggi’s creativity in her own personal style lent itself to some of the wildest outfits ever worn in the front row of fashion shows. Her signature look was extremely theatrical, favouring capes, canes, and sequins over more subtle accessories. Piaggi often wore cartoonish furs, topped with jaunty hats, and porcelain doll makeup: vivid blue eyeshadow, rosy cheek circles, and cupid’s bow lipstick. Her electric blue hair was always styled in the finger waves of a silent film star.
Piaggi dressed in a surrealist form of fashion, because her outrageous style broke imaginary boundaries of how people are supposed to dress. Surrealism as an art movement tapped into the unbridled weirdness of the human imagination; Anna Piaggi’s imagination showed us that there are no limits to what we can wear in the name of fashion. Piaggi even referenced surrealism in a literal way, by wearing a melting clock hat based on Salvador Dali’s iconic painting The Persistence of Memory.
Piaggi’s Vogue Italia column, “D.P. Doppie Pagine di Anna Piaggi” appeared in the magazine for over 23 years and gave her the freedom to cover whatever subject she was interested in, ranging from costume jewelry to animals to graffiti on the Paris Metro. “Her pages are the reason to read Vogue,” said Manolo Blahnik.
Piaggi played muse to some of the most important designers of the 20th and 21st Centuries, including Stephen Jones and Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld once said “Ann invents fashion,” which is quite the compliment coming from someone who thinks almost everyone is too fat. In 2006, Anna Piaggi was the subject of an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in London called “Anna Piaggi: Fashion-ology,” which chronicled her unique approach to fashion.Piaggi with fellow fashion icon Andrew Logan
Piaggi was also an inspiration to another famously fashion-conscious Anna: Anna Dello Russo, a fashion editor at Vogue Nippon. Both Piaggi and Dello Russo were Italians, with a maximalist sense of style and the ability to wear high-fashion designer clothing with a sense of humour. Piaggi’s loud outfits may have looked ridiculous on anyone without a big enough personality to pull them off, but on her they looked completely natural. At any given time, she looked liked she had arrived to a spectacular costume party where she was the belle of the ball.
Beyond her ties to the fashion cognoscenti, Anna Piaggi’s legacy as a fashionable older woman was a heavy inspiration for the well-known blog Advanced Style, which captures the wacky yet chic outfits worn by older women in New York. If Piaggi had been a New Yorker, there is no doubt she would have been a favourite subject of Advanced Style photographer Ari Seth Cohen, who told Fashionista.com “She was a legend and a huge inspiration on both my personal style and the way that I look at subjects…A true original.”
Anna Piaggi’s consistently wacky outfits were an inspiration to quirky girls all over the world, and her contribution to the canon of personal style is unmatched. In the world of fashion, she will be truly missed.
Isabel Slone is a Toronto-based fashion blogger and writer. Follow her on Twitter at @isabelslone.