May fashion exhibitions

Many of the major museums are gearing towards the summer with exhibitions that are sure to bring in the visitors. The Met’s annual spring exhibition is a dialogue between Catholicism and fashion featuring rarely seen group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican.  In London, The Design Museum is hosting an exhibition about the work of Azzedine Alana conceived by the designer before his death last year. Meanwhile, Orla Kiely’s pattern rich body of work is on display at the Fashion and Textile Museum.


Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren for Viktor & Rolf. Ensemble, autumn/winter 1999–2000 haute couture. Courtesy of Groninger Museum. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at The Met (New York)
until October 8

The Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,  is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue—in the medieval galleries, Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art, part of The Robert Lehman Wing, and the Anna Wintour Costume Center—and uptown at The Met Cloisters. The thematic exhibition features a dialogue between fashion and masterworks of medieval art in The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican serves as the cornerstone of the exhibition, highlighting the enduring influence of liturgical vestments on designers.

The exhibition features approximately 40 ecclesiastical masterworks from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside the Vatican. Encompassing more than 15 papacies from the 18th to the early 21st century, these masterworks are on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries and include papal vestments and accessories, such as rings and tiaras. The last time the Vatican sent a loan of this magnitude to The Met was in 1983, for The Vatican Collections exhibition, which is the Museum’s third most-visited show.

Providing an interpretative context for fashion’s engagement with Catholicism are more than 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear, from the early 20th century to the present, on view in the Byzantine and medieval galleries, in part of the Robert Lehman Wing, and at The Met Cloisters alongside medieval art from The Met collection. The presentation situates these designs within the broader context of religious artistic production to analyze their connection to the historiography of material Christianity and their contribution to the construction of the Catholic imagination.


Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at The Design Museum (London)
until October 7

Conceived and co-curated with Monsieur Alaïa before his death in November 2017, the exhibition charts his incredible journey from sculptor to couturier, his nonconformist nature and his infectious energy for fashion, friendship and the female body.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Alaïa personally constructed each garment by hand and refused to bow to the pressures of fashion week deadlines, instead working to his own schedule. His collaborative approach earned him an esteemed client list, including Greta Garbo, Grace Jones, Michelle Obama and Rihanna.

Rather than a retrospective, the show interlaces stories of his life and career alongside personally selected garments, ranging from the rare to the iconic and spanning the early 1980s to his most recent collection in 2017.


Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern at the Fashion and Textile Museum (London)
until September 23

Orla Kiely is one of the UK and Ireland’s most successful designers. Her stylized graphic patterns are innovative, influential and instantly recognisable. With a global audience in thrall to the rhythms and repeats of her designs, this exhibition explores the power of decoration to transform the way we feel.

Featuring over 150 patterns and products, as well as collaborations with photographers, film directors and architects, Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern emphasises the role of ornament and colour in our everyday lives. Highlights include the original paper sketches for the trademark ‘Stem’ graphic, created in the 1990s, which has evolved to feature on everything from mugs and dresses to notebooks and even cars, plus prototypes for her early signature bags and the evolution of the iconic ‘Pear’ and ‘Flower’ designs. With unique access to the company archives, the exhibition offers a privileged insight into the designer’s world – how she works, what has inspired her, and why her facility with pattern has produced designs that have resonated around the world. This exhibition is a must-see opportunity for everyone interested in the changing look of the 21st century environment.


Haute Dentelle at the Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais
until January 6, 2019

After the success of the exhibitions Hubert de Givenchy, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Anne Valérie Hash and Iris van Herpen, the Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais, dedicated to hand-made and mechanical lace, presents the Haute Dentelle (Designer Lace) exhibition.

Haute Dentelle offers a unique insight into the contemporary uses by fashion designers of lace woven on Leavers looms. Implicitly, exhibition curator Sylvie Marot weaves a unique dialogue between lace houses and fashion houses, revealing behind these exchanges  powerful creative propositions.

First inspired by and then liberated from hand-made lace, mechanical laces have been marrying tradition with innovation for 200 years. Synonymous with delicacy, the apparent fragility of the lace is an illusion: its woven texture makes it unravelable. A textile of high technicity, the subject of never-ending design research among lace-makers, lace has never been so multi-faceted. In infinite shades, textures, finishing techniques and embroideries, it may be transparent or opaque, with floral or abstract patterns, light or three-dimensional… to the point of becoming magnificently unrecgonizable.


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