December fashion exhibitions

In many ways December fashion exhibitions explore the boundaries of fashion. Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is putting on a display that maps the rules of fashion from the 14th century to today whilst Black Fashion Designers at The Museum at FIT highlights the lack of diversity in fashion. Late photographer Malick Sidibé’s first solo exhibition in UK  tells a social story of Mali through images depicting life and culture. London-based photographer Harley Weir’s first ever solo-exhibition is literally titled ‘Boundaries’. 



Boundaries by Harley Weir at Foam (Amsterdam)
until February 19, 2017

Foam presents the first solo-exhibition of Harley Weir (b. 1988, London). With a remarkable eye for detail, she finds beauty in the mundane. Close to the skin of her objects, Weir’s intimate approach is what marks her work in any context, be it a border zone in a politically charged area, or in a room with a model.

The title of this exhibition refers to what is ultimately dissolved in the work of Harley Weir. But even as she crosses the lines of what usually holds people apart, on personal as well as political levels she is not out to make any statements. The exhibition therefore reads as a visual poem, open to interpretation.


Grace Wales Bonner, ensemble, Spring 2017, England, Museum purchase. Photograph: Morgan O'Donovan

Black Fashion Designers at The Museum at FIT (New York)
until May 16, 2017

There have been past exhibitions about individual black fashion designers, such as Stephen Burrows and Patrick Kelly, but this exhibition explores the experiences of several generations of fashion designers of African descent from the 1950s to the present. The curators acknowledge the problem of using race as a lens through which to view fashion design. Fashion journalist Robin Givhan addressed the implications of such categorization when she described the Pyer Moss spring 2016 collection by designer Kerby Jean-Raymond: “It was a startling and emotional reflection of Jean-Raymond’s fatigue over being described as a ‘black’ designer. Not because he isn’t proud of his heritage and not because he doesn’t bring his full self to his work, but because the nomenclature is limiting.”

Yet because black designers have too often gone unrecognized and underrepresented, there is much to be learned from such an exhibition, about the challenges faced by black designers and how their experiences have changed over time. Even today, they make up only about one percent of the designers covered by, the most comprehensive online site for viewing collections from fashion weeks around the world.

The designers featured in Black Fashion Designers work in a diverse range of individual styles; they do not all speak in one voice. The exhibition draws exclusively from the permanent collection of The Museum at FIT and is organized according to categories and themes, such as eveningwear, menswear, street style, experimental fashion, and African influences.


Malick Sidibé, Fans de Jimi Hendrix, 1971. Photograph: Malick Sidibé

Malick Sidibé at Somerset House (London)until January 15, 2017

The first solo exhibition in the UK of the late Malian photographer. Sidibé is celebrated for his black-and-white images chronicling the lives and culture of the Malian capital, Bamako, in the wake of the country’s independence in 1960. The exhibition presents 45 original prints from the 1960s and 1970s based around the themes of: Tiep à Bamako / Nightlife in Bamako, Au Fleuve Niger / Beside the Niger River, Le Studio / The Studio.

“No African artist has done more to enhance photography’s stature in the region, contribute to its history, enrich its image archive or increase our awareness of the textures and transformations of African culture in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st than Malick Sidibé.” Robert Storr, art critic & former MoMa curator


Rick Owens, men’s ready-to-wear 2015. Source: Guy Marineau

Tenue Correcte Exigée : Quand Le Vêtement Fait Scandale at Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Paris)
until April 23, 2017

Every age, every season has its fashions, but in the street or in parliament, at work or at play, everything wear is subject to rules. And of course those rules are there to be broken. “Tenue correcte exigée, quand le vêtement fait scandale” revisits the scandals that have marked the great turning points in fashion history from the 14th century to today.

Featuring more than 400 garments and accessories, portraits, caricatures and objects, this original and unexpected exhibition explores the liberties taken with dress codes and how they breached moral values. The robe volante, women in trousers, men in skirts, female tuxedo, miniskirt, baggy, jeans… All challenged vestimentary norms and were savagely criticised, even banned when they first appeared. Because they were too short or too long, too close or too loose fitting, too immodest or too covering, too feminine for men or too masculine for women, they transgressed the established order. The exhibition explores three major themes: Dress Codes, Girl or Boy? and Provocative Excess in an exhibition design by Constance Guisset.


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