One of the first fashion journalists and the first fashion editor in Italy is a woman whose contribution to the italian industry was fundamental, as was the part she played in establishing Italian style throughout the world. Irene Brin was the first woman to write articles about fashion in illustrated news magazines, raising the standard to produce pieces of educated, refined and elegant journalism, while handing out bon-ton advice in her dry, ironic and caustic style. She wrote about fashion, her great love together with art, and she did it before she was even twenty, before Leo Longanesi, editor of the weekly Omnibus, invited her to write for him, giving her a light, brilliant name that suited her down to a T. She wrote: “My name is neither Irene, nor Brin, even if that’s who I’m referred to in contracts, the phone book and in everyday dicussions. It was invented by Longanesi. I am an invention of Longanesi”. So Maria Vittoria Rossi became Irene Brin. It was, however, her column where she adopted the pen name of Countess Clara that brought her fame throughout Italy, as she dispensed beauty and fashion advice and lessons in etiquette, pretending to be an old countess from behind the Iron Curtain in the years immediately after the war. In the early ’50s, Irene was instrumental in opening up and establishing relations with the United States that were destined to change the fashion scene in Italy forever. In 1950 she made an important acquaintance: as she was walking with her husband along Park Avenue in New York, she met Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, and became the first Italian correspondent to work with the magazine, at a time when the world of fashion only spoke French. A year later she helped stage the first fashion show in Italy, organised by the Marquis Giovanni Battista Giorgini in his villa in Florence.
It was a huge success and marked the beginning of a new and revolutionary way of experiencing fashion, while forging new alliances between Italy and America. Working for one of the most sophisticated magazines in New York which collaborated with famous names such as Truman Capote, Carson Mac Cullers, Brassai and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irene Brin was one of the most cosmopolitan women of the post-war era and represented the idea of style she wrote about. She travelled extensively, on her own and with her husband, and was a familiar face in artistic and intellectual circles, establishing relations with important high society figures. It was in Rome, where she lived, that she founded the first gallery in Italy after the Second World War in 1946 with her lifelong companion Gaspero del Corso. The gallery soon became the centre of the new artistic landscape in the capital, hosting some of the most important pre-war artists, including Morandi, Balla, Sironi and De Chirico. With the years of Fascist repression behind her, the journalist decided to draw on her knowledge and experience and share her incredible enthusiasm for culture with her country. At L’Obelisco she began exhibiting the works of little-known artists like Magritte, Rothko, Kandinsky, Calder, Dalì, Bacon, Picasso and many more. This deep love for art extended to the garden at her family home which she had always dreamt of. “Irene’s garden” is in Sasso, a small village of Bordighera, and is laid out over a number of terraces which stretch down the valley, home to plants and works of art of incredible beauty and value.
The roses, palm trees, pine trees, cypresses and natural springs all convey the cultural vocation of the writer, who always dreamt of turning it into a sculpture garden with works by Pomodoro, Perez and Manuelli. This vocation is now perpetuated by her nephew, Vincent Torre, also an art collector, who after Irene’s death, gave the place a decidedly contemporary stamp, involving the space and landscape artist, Maria Dompè. Today the garden is an open-air museum hosting cultural events organised by the Irene Brin Cultural Association which was founded in 2013 and sponsors competitions, exhibitions and other cultural activities. The first Italian fashion editor died of cancer in her family home in Sasso in 1969, and her last words were to say “I want to go on a journey”. That same year, the Academy of Fashion and Costume in Rome set up the Irene Brin Award for talented young designers, while Alberto Fabiani, who had designed the suit that caught the eye of the czarina of Harper’s Bazaar, dedicated a whole collection to her. Yet more recognition for the woman who, as her great friend Indro Montanelli wrote, “invented a new way of seeing things and describing them”.
“Associazione Irene Brin”
Via Cairoli, 6, Loc. Sasso di Bordighera (IM)
c/o Il giardino di Irene
Cover. Irene Brin, L’Obelisco Gallery. GNAM
01. Richard Avedon, Irene Brin, 1954. Irene Brin Association
02. Massimo Campigli, Portrait of Irene Brin, 1954, oil on canvas. Irene Brin Association
03. Augusto Perez,”The partisans”(work has been removed)