Whilst the fashion world can definitely appear fleeting, (a 10-second Instagram story here, a 15-minute catwalk show there), there is a definite slow renaissance brewing. The Fashion Exhibition is the new Hollywood blockbuster, inviting and attracting record breaking crowds to stop and linger within the brand. So whilst we are happy to marvel at the craft and richest histories of the most extraordinary designers, the exhibitionists will keep coming. Next up? A Prada exhibition is coming to the Design Museum in London in November 2020 - showcasing some of the house’s most iconic pieces. While we wait, BURO. reflects on the next-level moments from some of our favourite fashion exhibitions, from royal birthday outfits to robots making a cameo on the catwalk.
Who doesn’t love a royal rebel? High up on that list: Princess Margaret. The Queen’s younger sister to this day remains a source of intrigue: from colourful stories of her turbulent love affairs and mixing with Mick Jagger. Her style also made for headline-bate: so iconic in the 1950s and 60s that it was branded the ‘Margaret Look.’ One of the most lasting images of the royal is of her dressed in an off-the-shoulder ballgown cinched at the waist, created by Christian Dior for her 21st birthday, immortalised by the photographer Cecil Beaton. Undoubtably this dress was the big centrepiece at the V&A’s Dior retrospective earlier this year. Fun fact: In Cecil Beaton’s diary, he wrote that Margaret jokingly described the dress as covered in, um, potato peelings. In fact, it was decadently embellished raffia embroidery, mother-of-pearl petals and sequins.
The Couturier, at the Design Musuem in 2018
“Clothes, like architecture and art, reflect an era,” said Azzedine Alaïa. Dubbed ‘The King of Cling’, Alaïa became famous for his body-hugging dresses in the 1980s. Fashionistas flocked to see the couturier’s signature bandage-designs at the Design Museum, worn by the likes of Tina Turner and Naomi Campbell. The most ‘grammed of them all: The Grace Jones dress - a purple hooded draping masterpiece worn by the Jamaican musician in the mid 1980s. I.C.O.N.I.C.
Wonderful Things at the V&A, Autumn 2019
If there’s one exhibition to see this winter, bookmark the colour-happy Tim Walker: Wonderful Things (the largest ever exhibition of his work). Our personal favourite – while it’s hard to pick just one – is the yellow room that feels like you’ve walked into a stately home, with multiple portraits hanging on the wall, a film projection flickering within a vast fireplace and a photo of his long-time collaborator Tilda Swinton. Dreamy.
Hair by Sam McKnight,
at Somerset House in 2016
Princess Diana’s shorter do’, Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album cover, Kate Moss’ wedding waves: of all the hairstyles you’ve loved over the years, Sam McKnight probably had something to do with them. Hair by Sam McKnight was the first exhibition to properly contextualise the cultural significance of hair and its role in fashion. The highlight of the show was a wigomania room - dedicated entirely to the absolutely fabulous wigs, including one that Naomi Campbell wore during Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Anglomania’ show in 1994.
Savage Beauty, at the V&A in 2015
The Savage Beauty exhibit was one of the V&A’s most popular exhibitions at the time - attracting more than 480,000 visitors (unsurprising, to fans of the London designer). McQueen was the OG fashion disruptor; he smashed through boundaries and thrilled us with bumsters, bird figures balancing on models’ shoulders and actual carnage on the catwalk (example A: once an actual car caught on fire). All of McQueen’s collections were magical, but one of the most memorable moments captured in the exhibition was taken from his spring/summer 1999 collection. A dress created in the most spectacular, sci-fi way: supermodel Shalom Harlow rotated on a turntable, as two robots spray-painted her tulle dress in front of the audience. Now that is how you do a finale.