In June, two important designer-focused retrospectives will go on display in London – one about Balenciaga and the other about Anna Sui. Against these traditional showcases that one has come to expect when the subject is fashion, the other two exhibitions opening this month are more experimental and intriguing. At Textile Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands, curators Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano bring attention to sustainability with their Earth Matters showcase. Olivier Saillard’s latest exhibit at Galleria del Costume of Palazzo Pitti focuses on ephemerality of fashion.
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at V&A (London)
until February 18, 2018
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is the first UK exhibition to explore the work and legacy of the Spanish couturier, showcasing over 100 garments and hats crafted by Balenciaga, his protégés and contemporary designers working in the same innovative way today. It examines Balenciaga’s work from the 1950s and 1960s – arguably the most creative period of his career – when he dressed some of the most renowned women of the age and became revered by his contemporaries, including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel.
The exhibition features examples of Balenciaga’s revolutionary shapes from this period – the tunic, sack, baby doll and shift dresses – all of which remain style staples today. Other highlights include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ball-gowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.
Alongside these iconic garments are archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage, providing a unique insight into Balenciaga’s salons and workrooms. The results of new, forensic investigations into the garments – including a collaboration with X-ray artist Nick Veasey and a digital pattern making project with the London College of Fashion – reveal the hidden details and processes which make Balenciaga’s work so exceptional.
The second part of the exhibition explores the lasting impact of Balenciaga, tracing his influence through the work of over 30 fashion designers across the last 50 years. Pieces designed by Balenciaga’s former apprentices André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro demonstrate a signature minimalist aesthetic, recently revived by Phoebe Philo for Celine and in the strong lines of J.W. Anderson. Balenciaga’s perfectionism and attention to detail are reflected in the work of Hubert de Givenchy and Erdem. His pattern cutting and explorations with volume can be seen in the work of Molly Goddard and Demna Gvasalia, while his creative use of new materials is referenced in the work of former Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquière.
Earth Matters at Textiel Museum (Tilburg, The Netherlands)
until November 26
Earth Matters refers to the worldwide development regarding sustainability and respect for earth’s resources. In the worlds of design, science and business, these aspects are of great importance. By using the four themes, ‘Honouring Origins’, ‘Collecting Ingredients’, ‘Reinventing Materials’ and ‘Sustaining Production’, the exhibition Earth Matters, gives the visitor a better understanding of a sustainable cycle and the importance of material studies. The exhibition shows experiments – from fashion to design – that contribute to a sustainable making process, either on a small or a large scale. All projects encourage people to think about the source of materials and the creation process, not only through innovation, but even more by the re-evaluation of crafts and locally produced products. The exhibition is curated by Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano, together with the TextielMuseum.
The Ephemeral Museum of Fashion at Galleria del Costume of Palazzo Pitti (Florence)
until October 22
On Tuesday, June 13th, 2017, the opening day of the 92nd edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo, Il Museo Effimero della Moda (The Ephemeral Museum of Fashion), produced by the Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery in collaboration with the Gallerie degli Uffizi and the Palais Galliera, will be inaugurated in the spaces of the Galleria del Costume of Palazzo Pitti. The exhibition is the second edition in a three-year program promoted by the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana and the Gallerie degli Uffizi and is curated by Olivier Saillard.
The peculiarity of The Ephemeral Museum lies in its novel conceptions of staging and thematic content. The exhibition, in eighteen rooms, will showcase nearly two hundred items – clothing and accessories – dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. For many, it will be the first time they are removed from their storage boxes, others will be exhibited for the last time before being put back into the archives because of their fragility. The clothes, punctuating each room’s theme, were brought back to light thanks to the wonderful work done by the restorers of the Galleria del Costume and the Palais Gallieria. They were created by the world’s most prestigious dressmakers and fashion ateliers, from Florence to Rome, Milan, Paris and New York, including the House of Worth; Mariano Fortuny Venice; Rosa Genoni; Atelier Emilio Schubert, Rome; Roberto Capucci, Maison Vionnet; Irene Galitzine, Rome; Elsa Schiaparelli; Jole Veneziani; Biki, Maison romana d’alta moda Carosa, Nina Ricci, Gianfranco Ferré and Christian Lacroix.
Contemporary fashions are also well represented with recent acquisitions by the Palais Galliera, shown for the first time here in Florence, and some items from the Palazzo Pitti collection. And the show includes a foray into the world of today’s fashions with selections from the latest collections by Gucci, Margiela, Bless, Fendi, Armani, Valentino, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, John Galliano and Lanvin.
“The Ephemeral Museum is an occasion; an opportunity to reinvent Palazzo Pitti’s Galleria del Costume e della Moda,” said Olivier Saillard, ideator and chief curator of the exhibition, Director of the Palais Galliera, author of performances and art projects and curator of the exhibition Balenciaga, l’oeuvre au noir just opened at Musée Bourdelle in Paris. “On mannequins of wood and of wax, or abandoned on armchairs and seats, suspended as soft sculptures, reclining like sleeping beauties, the garments are the shipwrecked waifs of a mysterious, fragile and caduceus museum. It will disappear in a few months’ time, victim and witness to passing time. It is our hope that it may reborn in another time, another place, within the fickle walls of a museum, in the forgotten spaces of a building. That it will continue to raise questions about the transient nature of fashion but also about its poetic vitality; that in its nomadic meanders, it will to draw together sublime foundations and shifting frontiers; as it incessantly redefines itself, that it will become most beautiful, the fairest of all the world’s museums.”
The World of Anna Sui at the Fashion and Textile Museum (London)
until October 1
Anna Sui is the classic American fashion designer. From Detroit to New York, her signature rock-n-roll romanticism reinvents pop culture for every new generation. Since her first catwalk show in 1991, Sui has shaped not only the garments, textiles, accessories, beauty and interiors which comprise her design universe, but also the course of fashion history. The World of Anna Sui features over 100 looks from the designer’s archive, presenting a roll call of archetypes from Surfers and School Girls to Hippies, Mods and Punks. This is the first time an American designer has been the focus of a retrospective exhibition in the UK.