Last year gave us a wonderful programme of fashion and style exhibitions. Highlights included the London Victoria and Albert Museum’s record-breaking Savage Beauty for showing us the pure visual splendour and inventiveness of Alexander McQueen, as well as related shows at Tate Britain and Proud Gallery that brought additional insight into his early career and late work.
Mademoiselle Prive at London’s Saatchi Gallery (see picture above) gave us a primer on the visual touchstones of Chanel and also showed me how expertly commercial organisations handle public exhibitions, even on simple things like allowing pictures and actively encouraging social media.
Jeanne Lanvin at Paris’s Musee Galliera showed a cache of stunning gowns that had lain hidden for years, many in extraordinary condition for their age. It was a reminder of why one of the industry’s first female couturiers was so renowned for her skill with embroidered and embellished fabrics. Many of the effects still look modern today.
Lanvin Manifesto at the Maison Europeene de la Photographie reminded us of the genius of Alber Ebaz right at the point at which Lanvin’s owner appeared to lose sight of it and causing the two to part company. The insight into the sources of inspiration, couture techniques used in the workroom and the beauty of the unfinished dresses on show were all unforgettable. Lanvin lost a lot when they lost Alber Ebaz.
Where else could the Fashion and Textile Museum’s show Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood have been staged other than Britain? It showed the best of the traditional – 1930s fairisle; the avant garde – Vivienne Westwood; and the quirky – Sibling’s massively oversized knits. Even the gallery volunteers sat knitting as they watched over the rooms. It was as British as they come and such good fun.
And there is a lot to get excited about in the first half of 2016….
Just about to open on 15 January (until April 16) is Fairy Tale Fashion at New York’s Museum at FIT. The show will explore the way that fairytales use dress to relate character. The visuals promise to be stunning, with over 80 works from Thom Browne, Dolce e Gabbana, Tom Ford, Giles, Mary Katrantzou, Marchesa, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Prada, Rodarte, and Walter Van Beirendonck shown against fantasy backdrops. Get an early preview here.
Back in London, on 11 February Vogue unveils its hundredth anniversary celebrations at the National Portrait Gallery with Vogue 100: A Century of Style. That will definitely be a back catalogue worth exploring, spanning the best of both fashion illustration and photography.
On 11 March London’s Fashion and Textile Museum will open a new show about the Art Textiles of Marian Clayden (until 17 April). It promises an insight into her work combining some of the most luxurious fabrics with traditional printing and dyeing techniques (like tie-dye and shibori) and a very timely show judging from some of the influences that major designers brought to their Spring Summer 2016 collections.
April brings a clutch of delights. After Valentino’s recent flower embroidered collections, London’s National Gallery’s show on Dutch Flowers will bring more gorgeous inspiration. Opening on 6 April, it will include still lives from the early 17th century to the late 18th, from artists such as Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Jan van Huysum, and Rachel Ruysch. I predict a bout of ‘tulip mania’ on the streets of London.
In Paris the Musée des Arts Décoratifs will open its Fashion forward – Three centuries of fashion on 7 April, on the same day that its collaboration with H&M on womenswear and accessories inspired by the museum’s archives goes on sale. Fast fashion allied with three centuries of conservation is an interesting concept and it will be fascinating to see how the show lines up with the commercial collection.
Back in London, the V&A will open Undressed: A brief history of Underwear on 16 April with an overview (ahem) of underwear from practical performance to sensual delights and, along the way, insight into how it has (literally) shaped fashion.
May sees the launch of the New York Metropolitan Museum’s fashion blockbuster: Manus x Machine. From 5 May until 14 August, we’ll see how designers have combined traditional craftsmanship with machines and technology through a presentation of over 100 ensembles. From the late nineteenth century roots of Haute Couture to the present day, it will consider the ways that the handmade exists alongside technology as well as the distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear, presenting handmade haute couture garments alongside machine-manufactured ready-to-wear and couture workrooms contrasted with 3D printing processes.
Back in London, on 6 May, the Fashion and Textile Museum will open a new show running to 28 August on the work of Italian label, Missoni. It is a marque known primarily for colourful abstract-print knitwear and this promises to be a wonderful celebration of colour and print.
Soon after on 11 May Tate Britain will open a new exhibition examining the Pre-Raphaelite movement’s contribution to the development of modern day photography. Until 25 September Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age will show photographs and paintings spanning the Victorian and Edwardian ages and charting the development of photography alongside the emerging work of painters such as J.M.W. Turner, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, JAM Whistler, John Singer Sargent, John William Waterhouse. As an unashamed romantic when it comes to art and dress, I’ll be breaking the doors down to get at this one.
Which brings me to two wonderful shows currently on in Paris: Volez, Voguez, Voyagez at the Grand Palais and celebrating the travel style of Louis Vuitton until 21 Feb; and La Mode Retrouve showcasing the stunning wardrobe of the Comtesse Greffuhle, inspiration to Proust until 20 March. The latter will move to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, NY later in the year. The window is fast closing to see these wonderful shows, both curated by Olivier Saillard.
We truly have some visual delights to come this year (and that’s even without mentioning Gray MCA’s September London Fashion Week Drawing on Style celebration of illustrator Rene Bouche’s work that promises to be as alluring as their Irwin Crosthwaite show last year.