To mark the publication of the book “50 years dressing dreams” we were able to interview the journalist, fashion historian and the author of this work, Charo Mora. We promise that you are the first to read the complete interview, which we are publishing exclusively here for Atelier Backstage readers.
We were delighted to be able to interview her exclusively for the blog
P- This book has taken you a long time to write. We know you had to do a lot of research. Tell us about it.
CM- I worked hard on this for ten months, focusing all my attention on the Pronovias 50th anniversary project.
I spent the first month getting familiar with the files and finding out what kinds of information were available. These included documents, photographs, illustrations, garments, etc. Then, during the second stage, my assistant Marina Monge and I spent months poring through and sorting out all that information. We searched, selected and classified materials we would be able to use to create a chronology for the firm and to organise the contents of both the book and the “50 love stories” exhibition. Shortly afterwards, Helena Garcia joined the project to support the research for the exhibition that opened last March.
At the same time, interviews with people from outside Pronovias were conducted and we went through the archives to illustrate the work with new data and documents about the history of the firm. Lastly, the third area of the project focused on the bridal concept and the history of fashion, exploring the broader context in which Pronovias was born, grew and developed, the history of 20th and 21st century fashion and the rite of marriage.
In addition to all this we had to select the images that would appear in the book. This was a monumental task when you take into account how enormous the Pronovias archive is and that these images take up more than two thirds of the book. We also needed to write the texts for the different chapters. A concentrated task in which each piece of information and each conversation and image were put together to tell the story of the firm where history and facts are as important as its essence and philosophy.
P- What was your reaction when you were asked to write this book?
CM – I was very excited because this was a proposal from a leading firm in the industry with a long history and international prestige. As well as being a very stimulating challenge, the project meant I would be working in areas which I find particularly interesting, such as research and communication in the fashion sector. Let me explain. The project involved not only researching and preparing the contents but also determining how they would be communicated. The texts and the creative management. I couldn’t say no.
P- With so much information, how did you decide on the direction for the book?
CM – In the context of its 50th anniversary, the firm wanted to publish a book to explain its universe. That’s why it revolves around two main concepts: the history and essence of Pronovias. It unravels the chronology and timeline as well as its philosophy and personality, something like the firm’s soul. The things that make it unmistakable. The different aspects that define it, such as its relationship with creativity, the fashion shows, its love of the process, savoir faire and dress-making skills, the brides who have commissioned special dresses, the débutantes… they all appear in the different chapters of the book. The book takes readers on a journey through the history of the firm.
Style is the best spokesman for both aspects, history and essence, an aesthetic conclusion which in the book is revealed through its photographs. These have been obtained not only from private sources and the Pronovias archives, but also from its advertising campaigns and catalogues, most of which were produced by Antoni Bernad, GianPaolo Sgura and Carles Alsina. They also illustrate the connection between Pronovias and fashion trends through the decades and spotlight how women have evolved during the last half century. Two elements that I always knew would be the themes running through the book. Women are the firm’s main source of inspiration and the focal point of its work. The book is peppered with references to this new Eve and her role as a driver for historical transformation which is reflected in a special way in fashion.
She also wanted the book to explore the role of the wedding dress in the rite of marriage and how the European custom of marrying in white came into being. These topics are dealt with in the first two chapters of the book. These subjects open and start this voyage through the Pronovias universe.
P- What did you want to transmit in the book?
CM – The soul, DNA, character and personality of Pronovias.
P- We know the book contains a detailed explanation, but would you sum up in a few words why brides wear white?
CM- The tradition dates back to ancient times when Roman patricians married in white. However, since the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, the Modern Age through to the 19th century, ‘white weddings’ were episodic. There are isolated examples but it was not a generalised custom. In the 18th century, English and French aristocrats started wearing white. After the French revolution there was a strong Graeco-latin influence on these cultures and its characteristic white became a fashionable colour which was also popular with brides. However, it was when Queen Victoria of England married in 1840 that the tradition of getting married in a white dress with a train and a long veil and a floral bouquet began in the western world. The fact that the queen chose this colour instead of the crimson worthy of her rank was a surprise at the time. In the beginning, only aristocrats were able to follow her lead. This was because they were the only people who could afford the rich fabrics and embroidery, among other matters. The fact was that most women got married in dresses they were able to wear again and only their veils and the flowers gave the outfit a ceremonial nature. Truth be told it was not until the mid-20th century when almost all women started wearing white on their wedding days. This is something that has been possible thanks to firms like Pronovias.
P- Which do you think are the most interesting rituals in the different countries?
CM- It is hard to pick any one in particular. However, I was surprised that in China they consult astrologists to check that the bride and groom’s lives will be compatible. Another fascinating fact is that in the thousand-year-old Hezhe and Dong culture, wedding dresses are made entirely by hand and because they are so complex, women start making them when their daughters are very small to have them ready for the day of the ceremony. These garments take years to make and they are the result of painstaking work done by mothers throughout their daughters’ childhoods and adolescences. These dresses grow and develop alongside the girls who will wear them.
P- Which brides have made a mark on bridal fashion?
CM- There are many, but the dresses worn by women like Queen Victoria of England, Grace Kelly and Lady Diana Spencer are among the most influential of the 20th century. There were also ground-breaking dresses like those worn by Brigitte Bardot in 1950 designed by Jacques Esterel, Jaqueline Onassis’s dress, designed by Valentino for her wedding to the Greek shipowner in 1969 or that of Carolyne Bessette designed by Narciso Rodríguez for her wedding to John Kennedy Jr. in 1996. In the 21st century, one of the most influential was that worn by Plum Sykes on her wedding day in 2005 which was designed by Alexander McQueen. The fact is that the history of wedding dresses without these examples simply could not be told.
P- Which do you think will be the most popular chapter?
CM- I hope readers will enjoy all of them, although I suspect readers will have their favourites. That’s for them to decide.
Could you share some anecdotes about the process of writing the book? (If any) There are so many but if there’s one thing I’ll never forget it was my obsession with not losing the information for the project. I am talking about results of the research, also the texts and the selected images. Of course, there were several copies of these, but I would not let them out of my sight, day or night.
P- What makes this book special and different?
CM- Instead of starting with the history of the firm, the book opens with the history and symbolism of the rite of marriage throughout history and in different cultures, using art to pay homage to this universal practice. As I have repeated throughout the interview, everything it contains from the first to the last chapter makes reference to contemporary women. One of the most powerful drivers of evolution and transformation of the 20th century and this early part of the 21st century. The muse of Pronovias.
P- Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like to share?
CM - The Pronovias book project and the 50th anniversary exhibition have been a passionate episode that have filled the last year of my life.
¿Have not read the book yet? Download the digital version, with extra content.