The concept of “archive” implicitly expresses the visceral need that man feels to pass on to posterity the documentation he produces.

The Fashion Research Italy Foundation perceives this need and believes that it is essential to preserve the memory of fashion companies. To answer this need, two roads have been chosen: the conservation of physical archives of two companies and the creation of a digital archive of advertising of fashion companies.

As for the first, FRI acquired the historical archive of the Milanese converter owned by Renzo Brandone and received the donation of part of that of the Bologna-based company Emmanuel Schvili owned by Emmanuel Schvili and his wife Giorgia Fioretti. These two archives have given rise to two archival funds. FRI does not exclude that other funds will be added in the future.

As for the second road, the Foundation has created a digital fashion archive that collects advertising materials (campaign photographs, look books, catalogs, press releases, videos of fashion shows) of various companies from Emilia-Romagna who have joined the project. This project takes the name of Fashion Photography Archive.

FRI has created a data-base that connects the different materials, previously illustrated, creating a narrative that tells the history of these companies, their stylistic evolution as well as the change in aesthetics in the choice of models and photographic sets. The originals of these materials remain in the parent companies, while in the Foundation they live in their digital dimension.

Therefore FRI contains both types of archives: the more traditional physical archive, and the digital archive that also allows to store memory despite missing the material cataloged object.

Discover FRI Archive.


FRI, convinced of the strategic importance that the physical archives and the digital fashion archives are for the companies of the sector and not only, and of the need to preserve the materials correctly in order to reach future generations, has decided to assign some of its spaces to the conservation of historical materials that make up the memory of the Silkin converter history and of the Emmanuel Schvili brand. FRI has immediately felt the defense of company cultural heritage that often risks getting lost as a priority. With these two archival funds the beginning of implementation of its principles.

The materials of each fund are connected by a logical and necessary link, condition allowing one to speak of an archive. The latter is in fact the set of documents (including objects) put in place during a practical, legal, administrative activity, in our case by a fashion company, in the achievement of contingent purposes. In the case of fashion company archives, the objects are the products of the business and, not by chance, one speaks of “product archive”.

Therefore, the definition of an archive as a documentary complex has been illustrated, but the term also indicates the physical place of conservation. The Foundation has set up two rooms with controlled temperature and humidity to allow the best protection of the objects.

The Foundation considers the archive as a nodal asset for fashion companies as only by its own history and by passing down the knowledge of processes new creativity can be born. For this reason, one of its aims is to make companies aware of reorganizing their heritage by creating historical archives, both physical archives or digital archives. In other words: to safeguard the past in order to draw sap for the future.

This is an initiative that looks good in the wake of the meritorious congress of 1972 held in Rome from which for the first time the challenge to recover and register private company archives began. From that distant 1972 much has been done, but certainly the degree of sensitivity on the topic for fashion companies is not yet sufficient, excluding a few virtuous cases.


The Foundation believes that heritage culture in the field of fashion is an essential component. In this sense, it strives to sensitize companies in the manufacturing sector to the establishment of a physical and/or digital company archive. The ideal would be to conserve all types of documents including administrative documents that, linked to the product, allow us to reconstruct the birth-creation-sales process.

The product, however, represents the end of the fashion company’s efforts, reflects the events and the entrepreneurial paths, and is therefore the first that should be protected.
The archive is for a fashion company the only source to draw from to observe and maintain the memory of: used materials, applications, special workings and production processes. The artisan know-how cannot be substituted, but at least it is possible to preserve the products. In fact, those who habitually produces knows how difficult it is to reproduce an object when the knowledge of materials and production processes are lacking.

In agreement with the studies of great sociologists, such as Horkheimer and Adorno, the Foundation is also firmly convinced that fashion is increasingly a cultural industry. For this reason, the physical archive and the digital archive of the Fashion Research Italy Foundation, through their varied documentation, are proposed as possible models to study and where to do research on different levels. The archives try to conserve and return the complexity of the sector, therefore the major cataloging needs that the fashion company requires can be tested to three hundred and sixty degrees.


Physical and digital fashion archives must be alive, as all archives.
They must be an integral part of the productive, creative and communication process, they must be easily consulted and present an order that takes the logic of origin of the single document and the relational complexity into account.

The Foundation has developed a catalog sheet that returns the complexity of its archival collections and reconstructs the relationships between the different materials. The data base facilitates the research that could be directed towards various topics of study:

  • Supply chain processes: through the analysis of drawings, engraving folders, test papers, color variations and administrative documentation of the Renzo Brandone Fund, we understand what the production steps were and realize how the way and above all the times of a converter have changed over time;
  • Value of the finished product: from the analysis of the preserved drawings, in terms of techniques and artistry, both in the Renzo Brandone Fund and in the Emmanuel Schvili Fund, the high expertise used in the drawings is highlighted;
  • Design processes;
  • Production processes;
  • Reproduction processes.

These three processes are studied by analyzing the production chain of the textile design well represented by the materials of the two funds.

  • Commercial links: from the analysis of the administrative materials of the Renzo Brandone Fund it is possible to understand what commercial links the converter had;
  • Internal and external communication processes: the digital archive, or the Fashion Photography Archive, makes it very easy to study how internal communication works in the fashion company in preparation for the external communication as it collects the different materials that are the result of it. The Emmanuel Schvili Fund also bears witness to some communication materials;
  • Evaluation of company performance: with the drawings of the Renzo Brandone Fund, it is possible to analyze order flows, including the years of major or minor production, the quantity of fabrics ordered, relations with suppliers.


Once the archives of the two companies, Silkin and Emmanuel Schvili, were received, it was necessary to order them to allow them to be studied. This operation requires an archival description that, according to the ISAD definition, is “the elaboration of an exact representation of a unit of description and of the parts that eventually compose it through the collection, analysis, organization and registration. of information “. This required the cataloging of all materials (which is still in progress for the Emmanuel Schvili Fund). To do this, the choice fell on Collective Access, an open source cataloging software created in America and customized in Italy by Promemoria S.r.l. of Turin.

The cataloging process has some included essential points, the most important:

  • Creation of the catalographic card: definition of a description of the materials that complies with international standards;
  • Definition of digitization parameters: choice of which information to digitize and with which formats;
  • Hierarchical structure of the description: choice to create motherboards and daughter cards;
  • Definition of research functions: following the study of the types of target users, different ways of carrying out the research have been identified;
  • Process monitoring: each card is tracked, i.e. each entry or modification is recorded with the name of the scheduler;
  • Output: study of the visualization of the contents shown in the catalog card in the frontend of the software for an easy and effective consultation.

The Foundation’s challenge was focused on the desire to develop a portal that could help, and in some cases replace by becoming almost a digital archive (a reflection of the physical one), research on analogical materials (however consultable).

This challenge required, given the heterogeneity of the funds, to take into account the multiple needs of the end user. The use of nomenclatures has been limited, which however correct could have resulted too specialized. Navigation and hierarchical relationships have been made intuitive through:

  • A research divided into: free, advanced and explorative for images. They are different levels and types of research that allow one to navigate the funds trying to write keywords (free search) or keywords plus activation of selective filters (advanced search) or, only through the Renzo Brandone Fund, for visual exploration of areas with which the drawings are described.
  • Keywords: each drawing is described by a series of keywords that identify thematic areas.
  • Relationships for images: each drawing, or campaign photography, is linked to other materials (drawings, look books, catalogs, etc.) with which it is related because it is part of the same series, because it is mentioned in that document and so on.The cataloging has been conceived as a frontend that can be used by different users: professionals such as fashion designers, students, scholars of various kinds, experts and connoisseurs of the world of fashion archives, but also those who until today have had little or no familiarity with this sector.


The physical archive and the digital archive of the Foundation, together with all the related activities, therefore aims to be the beating heart of a constant reflection on the theme of digital cataloging of the heritage in the field of fashion. FRI wishes to raise awareness and broaden the debate to as many stakeholders as possible in order to spread a shared strategic vision of digitization aimed at breaking down: the lack of skills, the diffidence and the trivialization of its use in the archival field.
The archive represents an added value for companies as it embodies an ethical way of increasing the reputation of the company through a cultural lever.

Archive and digitization, but on condition that companies have understood the need to preserve their memory. The Foundation commits itself to this with its archival model and initiatives.


The Foundation owns an archive consisting of two physical funds (Renzo Brandone and Emmanuel Schvili) and a digital database with the unmistakable name Fashion Photography Archive in collaboration with Emilia-Romagna fashion companies, telling its story through advertising campaigns.

To consult the FRI Archive is possibile to make an appointment with our Archival Department calling 051 220086.

Acquisition of what was the Silkin Converter of Milan, which today lives in the memory of its archive merged with the Foundation and available to students and creatives for consultation.

Donated in 2016 by the former owners of the brand and in the process of reorganization, it consists of style guides, drawings on paper, embroidery and moldboards, all in the name of the cartoon characters.

Virtual archive of advertising photography, to preserve and enhance the visual memory of the Emilia Romagna Fashion, consolidating its prestige and recognition.


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