April fashion exhibitions

A number of must-see fashion exhibition open this April. ModeMuseum offers a new perspective on the work of Martin Margiela’s by focusing on his tenure at Hermès from 1997 to 2003. Meanwhile, the Chatsworth stately home acts as a backdrop and the subject for an exhibition that uses fashion and clothing as its narrative tool. Retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art marks the centennial of the fashion photographer Irving Penn’s birth.


 

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Margiela, The Hermès Years at ModeMuseum (Antwerp)
until August 27

From 31 March 2017 to 27 August 2017, MoMu is displaying Belgian stylist Martin Margiela’s Hermès collections from 1997 to 2003 for the first time. As well as this, the tribute exhibition also explores the relationship during these years between these collections and his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. Groundbreaking deconstruction and timeless luxury – the two worlds of designer Martin Margiela – are the starting point of the exhibition Margiela, the Hermès years.

When the Parisian house Hermès appointed Martin Margiela as its artistic director for the women’s ready-to-wear collections in October 1997, the founder of Maison Martin Margiela had already been known for almost a decade as one of the most influential avant-garde designers. His predilection for the deconstruction, recycling and recovery of materials was unheard of in the fashion world of that era. His conceptual approach to the presentation, sales and communication of his collections has changed the way we think about fashion and its underlying mechanisms, as well as our opinions on craftsmanship, commerce, authorship and innovation.

When Jean-Louis Dumas, then CEO of Hermès, approached Margiela for the label’s ready-to-wear for women at the end of the 1990s, it was a daring choice to say the least, and not in line with the prevailing developments on the fashion scene, which preferred celebrity designers to breathe new life into traditional French fashion houses. The fact that Hermès, the crown jewel of Parisian luxury, chose Margiela – an iconoclast who longed to remain anonymous and up to then had never given a single interview – raised quite a few eyebrows. The fashion press greedily speculated whether Margiela would apply his deconstruction idiom to the iconic Hermès legacy.

From 1997 to 2003, Margiela instilled his exhaustive and consistent vision of modern-day luxury into twelve consecutive Hermès collections. His sleek designs for the Hermès woman were all about comfort, timelessness and tactility, values that he shared with the house and that defined his vision of the Hermès woman associated with an understated style. The image he presented for Hermès surprised the press because of its unexpected direction. His sober and monochrome colour palette diverged from the typical brightly-coloured Hermès prints. Assisted by the outstanding craftsmanship of the Hermès studios, Margiela was able to distil his design and tailoring into sheer perfection, supported by extensive material research that not only enhanced the comfort of the wearer, but also introduced numerous innovations.

Margiela’s work for Hermès continues to influence the work of many contemporary designers. During Paris Fashion Week for autumn-winter 2016-2017, the international press described Martin Margiela – who retreated from the fashion world more than eight years ago – as the “true protagonist” of fashion week. High time to showcase some of his masterpieces with Margiela – The Hermès Years at MoMu.


 

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House Style at Chatsworth (UK)
until October 22

House Style demonstrates the power of fashion and brings to life the captivating individuals from the Cavendish family, including Bess of Hardwick, one of the most powerful women of the 16th century; the 18th century “Empress of Fashion” Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; and Adele Astaire, the sister and dance partner of Fred Astaire. Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the Mitford sisters. Model Stella Tennant and John F Kennedy’s sister ‘Kick’ Kennedy will also be central to the show.

Layering art history, fashion, jewellery, archival material, design and textiles, the exhibition is organised by theme. Highlights include exceptional couture designed by Jean Phillipe Worth and Christian Dior, together with influential contemporary garments from designers such as Gucci, Helmut Lang, Margiela, Vivienne Westwood, Erdem, Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Vetements.

The show will also feature personal family collections, including items belonging to the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. These pieces are displayed alongside livery, uniforms, coronation robes and fancy-dress costumes, demonstrating the varying breadth of fashion and adornment from the Devonshire Collection throughout the generations. Important artworks are also on display, including rare costume designs from the early 17th century by Inigo Jones, Surveyor to the King’s Works and one of the most notable architects of 17th century England.

Hamish Bowles, International Editor-at-Large at American Vogue, has curated this landmark show with creative direction and design by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, the duo behind some of the most memorable fashion exhibitions of recent years.


 

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Yeohlee|Serra at Phoenix Art Museum (USA)
until May 29, 2017

Pairing a series of gowns created in the mid-1990s by fashion designer Yeohlee Teng with large-scale oil stick screen prints by artist Richard Serra, this exhibition highlights the rigor of both creator’s explorations of form and space. Although conceived independently and for different purposes, their work shares creative and philosophical connections, including a bold use of geometry and proportion in relation to space and the human form, as well as using the inherent qualities of their materials as the guiding force of their work. This installation highlights the connections shared between the two artists at an intersection of art and fashion.

Yeohlee Teng opened her own fashion house, YEOHLEE, in 1981. Teng’s striking, geometrical approach to design has made her name synonymous with modernity and functionalism in fashion. Using a neutral color palette and minimal seaming, she is known for her ability to explore a piece of cloth with mathematical precision, transforming the fabric into a three-dimensional garment with little to no waste. Three of the five gowns featured in this installation are each cut from seven meters of black and ivory double-faced silk satin, and the additional designs follow a similar rigor.

Richard Serra, best known for his large-scale, site-specific sculptures, has been making prints since the early 1970s and continues to create works today with the Los Angeles based printers at Gemini G.E.L. By building up layers of black oilstick on oversized paper, his intensely-textured prints employ experimental processes that expand the boundaries of traditional screen-printing techniques.


 

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Irving Penn: Centennial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
Until July 30

The most comprehensive retrospective to date of the work of the great American photographer Irving Penn (1917–2009), this exhibition will mark the centennial of the artist’s birth. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Penn mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, and detail.

The exhibition follows the 2015 announcement of the landmark promised gift from The Irving Penn Foundation to The Met of more than 150 photographs by Penn, representing every period of the artist’s dynamic career with the camera. The gift will form the core of the exhibition, which will feature more than 200 photographs by Penn, including iconic fashion studies of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the artist’s wife; exquisite still lifes; Quechua children in Cuzco, Peru; portraits of urban laborers; female nudes; tribesmen in New Guinea; and color flower studies. The artist’s beloved portraits of cultural figures from Truman Capote, Picasso, and Colette to Ingmar Bergman and Issey Miyake will also be featured. Rounding out the exhibition will be photographs by Penn that entered The Met collection prior to the promised gift.


 

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