THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING LATTUADA
BY MARIELLA GARDELLA
An aesthete, illustrator, fashion designer, author, journalist and painter, he was part of a very small elite circle of fashion artists like Eric, Bouche’, Gruau and Antonio Lopez.
To become a friend of Alberto Lattuada was no easy matter. One had to take a good deal of trouble. And I took many years to know Lattuada well. That is to say as well as it is possible to know, this strange ‘orchid’, incoherent, extraordinary personality. Conversations with him were like playing tennis with an erratic tennis player. You never knew in what direction his thoughts would fly after some time. A sort of technique could be acquired. It was no use, for instance, ever asking him a question. He dreaded being pin down to any positive answer even of the most simple nature, where does, so and so, live somebody? He will reply why should anyone live anywhere the flashes of brilliance, which animate his conversation and made his company so delightful actually. Considering his aloofness, his detachment, his apparent antipathy for all the practical aspects of life, it is surprising how he managed to go anywhere.
First of all, I would like to speak of my friend Lattuada, and not immediately of his wonderful sketches, shown here at the fountain Riccardo Catella in Milan; they speak for themselves. My first meeting in ’68 with Alberto Lattuada, was thanks to a set of captions written by me, appreciated by him, and requested from a friend in common, Cristina Brigioni for the magazine Linea Italiana. His appreciation and approval of those few words changed my life totally. Destiny perhaps! To know Alberto Lattuada is not easy. I consider myself a friend for more than thirty years. And even now he remains enigmatic, a “rare orchid”, absolutely unpredictable. But at the same time extremely conscious of his own qualities, of his originality, eccentricity, and of his talent. For me he is an amateur in the English sense of the word because he had always avoided success. He is an aesthete, a true artist, belonging to that exclusive group of painters and illustrators of fashion like Berard Bouché, Eric, Gruau, Antonio. His elegance and his style are a continuation of that vanishing world they aptly mirrored. Lattuada is tremendously sophisticated, cynical, sarcastic and very waspish. Perfectly groomed, though I do not think I have ever seen him in a suit. He had created a style of his own, a contrived Anglo-American somber sporting elegance or an officer in mufti sort of look emphasized by his exaggerated taste for long trench coats. At certain moments he reminds me of the actor Clifton Webb, and like him, his world would have been Hollywood of the ’30-‘40’s. Or the New York of Dorothy Parker and the Batinage at the brilliant round table at the Hotel Algonquin. His own conversation, his humor and his wit are like a game of ping-pong, fast and stinging, It is impossible to predict in which direction they will go or who will be the next victim. Another thing that fascinates and intrigues me is “Lattuada” dandy, the attitude, apparently detached. And antipathy for all the practical aspects of life makes him always the more eccentric and charming. Sometimes he gives the impression that by himself; he cannot cross over the street. This is all part of the enigma. Like Oscar Wilde, Alberto has put his talent into his work and his genius in his life. Lattuada always surprises me with his encyclopedic knowledge of the world of literature, music, cinema, the fine arts, the theatre. He is the only Italian I know who avidly reads The Spectator. I do not know, but I can only suppose that he sleeps very little for the time he must dedicate to be so informed. How he fills in his rest of his night and day? I should have to refer to his inner circle of friends, and particularly to Giovanni, better known as “Brescia”. Dear Alberto, do you know where exactly I am today? At Babington’s your favourite “tea room” in Piazza Di Spagna in Rome, eating scrambled eggs on toast with apple pie and whipped cream. Remember? To lose one’s head, as you used to say. In those days the seventies you designed the collection of high fashion for Mila Schen, wonderful in those sea greens and turquoises that only you knew how to put together. With a touch of predictable cream over decades of creativity you have left your inimitable signature everywhere like Zorro. Anticipating fashion though your inspirational drawings, you once dedicated to me the Cloche Gardella, Why? Anyway it makes me feel very special. So many memories, so many moments spent together. Two come to mind vividly. The time when we decided to face the music and dance. We took up the cha cha cha, tango and slow fox trot at a rather run down dancing school in Porta Venezia in Milan. The other still actual your fixation for “Risco ‘Al Salto”, at the apartment of our late friend Maria Pezzi, the famous Italian fashion journalist, who had her cook prepare it to perfection, so subtle to look as though it was painted on the plate. and again and again other lunches with you and friends, always only lunch at the restaurant Il Verdi of Andrea in Piazza Mirabello in Milan, And always the same menu: Kir Royal, Riso Al Salto, Studel with American Coffee in the largest cups possible. Even in your eating habits, you are original. You are perhaps, the fastest eater I know. Plus anything red is taboo, salad to be avoided at all costs and never spaghetti. The most important thing is the conversation totally unpredictable, as is Alberto. Being an “Ariete”, he will disappear at the most unexpected moments. Alberto is my dearest friend and will be for the rest of my life. This important exhibition, organized by his admiring faithful friends represents his life’s work. Awarded the title “Maestro” by the prestigious school Polimoda of New York where he lectured from 1996 till 2006 “was one of the best periods of my life”, admits Alberto. “And where you produced the most successful drawings,” I added Thank you.