Reading Arbiter. Researching the Italian Menswear Fashion System on the Space of the Page
Keywords:Arbiter, Men’s Magazines, Menswear, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fashion Archives
The paper presents the experience of researching Arbiter, the first Italian magazine dedicated to men’s fashion. From 1935, the magazine performed its agency in relation to the Italian menswear system, entering wider debates on national and gender identity. The research leading to this paper would not have been possible without the access to the Ermenegildo Zegna Historical Archive, a corporate archive that allowed to analyse the magazine in its complete collection and to reconstruct the context surrounding it, thanks to sources such as pattern books, oral history transcripts, advertising campaigns and private correspondence. The paper will present Arbiter, reconstructing the context in which it was developed in the period 1935-1952. By concentrating on the micro-history of Arbiter, the paper will highlight the importance of fashion object in the historical research on socio-political and cultural issues. This leads to considering the value of the places where these objects are archived, preserved and made available for researchers, with the possibility to draw interesting trajectories and research paths. The ultimate aim is to reflect on the archive where this collection is kept, presenting it as a particular kind of corporate archive preserving the brand’s heritage and holding resources informing a research aiming at understanding the complexities behind the meaning of Italian Style as discourse and practice.
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