Jacqueline de Ribes: The Essence of True Glamour and Style at The Met’s Costume Institute

Style is what makes you different; it’s your own stamp, a message about yourself.” – Countess Jacqueline de Ribes.

The Costume Institute’s Fall 2015 exhibition, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, focuses on the internationally renowned style icon Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, whose originality and elegance established her as one of the most celebrated fashion personas of the 20th century.

Jacqueline de Ribes in Christian Dior, 1959 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Roloff Beny, Roloff Beny Estate

Jacqueline de Ribes in Christian Dior, 1959. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Roloff Beny, Roloff Beny Estate

A close study of de Ribes’s life of creative expression yields illuminating insights into her strategies of style,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who organized the exhibition. “Her approach to dress as a statement of individuality can be seen as a kind of performance art. When she established her own fashion house, her friend Yves Saint Laurent gave his blessing to the venture as a welcome projection of her elegance.”

The press preview for Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, was a somber affair. The guest of honor and the exhibition’s subject, Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, was not in attendance for obvious reasons. The Costume Institute released the following statement:

Following the tragic events in Paris, Jacqueline de Ribes has canceled her trip to New York for the opening of Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. She would like to express her gratitude to all her friends at the Met with whom she has collaborated for so many months, and hopes that they will understand her decision.

Comtesse de Ribes also knows how much Americans share the deep sadness felt in France, which confirms the enduring bond between the two countries. She hopes the exhibition will represent the joy associated with the freedom of creation.

Jacqueline de Ribes in her own design, 1983 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Victor Skrebneski, Skrebneski Photograph © 1983

Jacqueline de Ribes in her own design, 1983
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Victor Skrebneski, Skrebneski
Photograph © 1983

As reported by Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times, the planned dinner on Wednesday, hosted by the House of Dior, in honor of the exhibition was downgraded to a cocktail reception in business dress.

While I was looking forward to seeing the Countess in person (having read so much about her in magazines and newspapers since the early 1980’s), I must also say that, even without her there, the exhibition fully represented her far-reaching talents, self-assuredness and strong belief in her own sense of what works for her and how her public life (and charitable works) changed the world around her. In a time when “style icons” are anointed based on the work of their Svengali-like stylists who tell them what to wear (usually obscenely expensive designer dresses borrowed for the night, including the jewelery AND the shoes), where to wear them (most often than not to red-carpet events) and how to wear them, the Countess is the REAL DEAL. Most everyone else is a pale imitation.

Jacqueline de Ribes, 1955 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Richard Avedon, ©The Richard Avedon Foundation

Jacqueline de Ribes, 1955, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Richard Avedon,
©The Richard Avedon Foundation

Elegance. It’s an attitude. A frame of mind. An intuition, a refusal, a rigor, a research, a knowledge. The attitude of elegance is also a way of behaving.

Countess Jacqueline de Ribes (born 1929 in Paris to aristocratic parents) is seen by many as the ultimate personification of Parisian elegance. She was, with the American and Italian beauties Gloria Vanderbilt and Marella Agnelli, among the small flock of “Swans” photographed by Richard Avedon and written about by Truman Capote in 1959.

Married at age 19 to the late Édouard, Vicomte de Ribes (he became the Count de Ribes upon the death of his father in 1981), the traditions of her in-laws precluded her from becoming a career woman. However, as an independent spirit, she channeled her creativity into a series of ventures linked by fashion, theater, and style. In 1956, de Ribes was nominated for Eleanor Lambert’s Best-Dressed List. At the time, she had only a handful of couture dresses, as most of her wardrobe was comprised of her own designs, which she made herself or with a dressmaker. Four more nominations followed, and resulted in her induction into the International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1962.

Jacqueline de Ribes in her own design, 1986 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Francesco Scavullo, The Francesco Scavullo Foundation and The Estate of Francesco Scavullo

Jacqueline de Ribes in her own design, 1986
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Francesco
Scavullo, The Francesco Scavullo Foundation and The Estate of Francesco
Scavullo

When I was a small child, there were two women I admired. One was a friend of my mother’s who was an ambassadress. The other was Coco Chanel. It seems I always wanted to be a designer.”

Photographed by the world’s leading talents including Slim Aarons, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Robert Doisneau, Horst, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Irving Penn, Francesco Scavullo, Victor Skrebneski, and Juergen Teller, her image came to define an effortless elegance and a sophisticated glamour, something you cannot say about so many of the women today that defines the term, “modern style icons.” As Carolina Herrera recently remarked in a newspaper interview (and I am paraphrasing here), “How can someone be a style icon when they are not wearing any clothes?” in reference to the trio of music and Hollywood stars who attended the recent Met Ball in “dresses” that left almost nothing to the imagination. And Mrs. Herrera is right. If you want to see what a TRUE style icon is, run, don’t walk, to The Met to see Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style.

You must remember that you’re never going to be sexy for everyone. You are sexy for someone and for someone else you are not. Being totally nude is not sexy. The art of being sexy is to suggest. To let people have fantasy.”

Gallery View, Evening Wear © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Evening Wear
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The thematic exhibition features approximately 60 ensembles of haute couture and ready-to-wear primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from 1962 to the present. Also included are her creations for fancy dress balls, which she often made by cutting up and cannibalizing her haute couture gowns to create unexpected, thematic, and conceptually nuanced expressions of her aesthetic. These, along with photographs, video, and ephemera, tell the story of how her interest in fashion developed over decades, from childhood “dress-up” to the epitome of international style.

A muse to haute couture designers, they placed at her disposal their drapers, cutters, and fitters in acknowledgment of their esteem for her taste and originality. Ultimately, she used this talent and experience to create her own successful design business, which she directed from 1982 to 1995.

Gallery View, Evening Wear © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gallery View, Evening Wear
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

My mirror, my only truthful advisor.”

While the exhibition explores her taste and style methodology, extensive documentation from her personal archives illustrates the range and depth of her professional life, including her roles as theatrical impresario, television producer, interior designer, and director and organizer of international charity events. Continue reading

Coming Soon to The Museum at FIT: Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch

Susanne Bartsch with Gage of the Boone, 2013. Photo © Wilsonmodels.

Susanne Bartsch with Gage of the Boone, 2013. Photo © Wilsonmodels.

Susanne wearing a dress by Rachel Auburn, Liberty Theatre in Times Square, 2014. Photo by Robin Souma.

Susanne wearing a dress by Rachel Auburn, Liberty Theatre in Times Square, 2014. Photo by Robin Souma.

The Museum at FIT presents Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch (Special Exhibitions Gallery, September 18 – December 5, 2015), featuring approximately 80 looks from the underground fashion impresario’s personal collection of clothing and accessories, including designs by Rachel Auburn, The Blonds, Leigh Bowery, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Pam Hogg, Stephen Jones, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood, and Zaldy, thanks to the generosity of the Couture Council and MAC Cosmetics.

Susanne and François Sagat in Switzerland hosting an AIDS benefit. Dress by Mathu and Zaldy, 2011. © Patrick MettRaux and Lukas Beyeler.

Susanne and François Sagat in Switzerland hosting an AIDS benefit. Dress by Mathu and Zaldy, 2011. © Patrick MettRaux and Lukas Beyeler.

Born in Switzerland, Susanne Bartsch moved to London as a teenager, living there for a decade. “We called her the Swiss Miss,” say old friends from London, where Bartsch was a key figure among the New Romantics. Arriving in New York on Valentine’s Day 1981, Bartsch opened a boutique in Soho while still on a tourist visa. An enthusiastic proponent of 1980s English fashion, she was one of the first New York retailers to import Vivienne Westwood. She also organized fashion shows, such as New London in New York and London Goes to Tokyo, that showcased designers Leigh Bowery, Body Map, and Stephen Jones. But life in 1980s New York was not just a party; AIDS was devastating the community. As her friends began dying, Bartsch notes that she “survived this period by becoming a fundraiser.” In 1989, she organized the Love Ball, one of the first and most important AIDS benefits. Over the next few years, she raised a total of $2.5 million for AIDS research and advocacy.

The catwalk crew at Marquee, 2013. Photo by Jason Akira Somma.

The catwalk crew at Marquee, 2013. Photo by Jason Akira Somma.

Susanne Bartsch has also been the longtime reigning queen of New York City nightlife since the 1980s when she became renowned for creating spectacular parties where she and a diverse mix of individuals—uptown, downtown, gay, straight, multiracial—dressed up in their own versions of high fashion, street style, drag, and Mardi Gras extravaganza. Her first party took place in 1986 at a club near The Chelsea Hotel, where she has lived for many years. “It was about seeing and being seen,” says Bartsch.

Bartsch and her friends have long constituted a fashion underground of creative individuals who take dressing up to the level of performance art. “Style is about expressing yourself,adds Bartsch. “You can be whatever you want to be—a silver-screen star, a Marie Antoinette baroque creature, a Victorian punk. I love that about fashion and makeup.” A muse for fashion designers and makeup artists, Bartsch has also been a catalyst for the cross-fertilization of ideas between creative people in a range of fields. Today, she is increasingly creating events that explicitly link fashion and art.

Photo by Robin Souma

Photo by Robin Souma

Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch opens with a small introductory gallery of images and videos about Bartsch and her world. In the main exhibition gallery, the first section focuses on the 1980s English fashions that Bartsch introduced to New York displayed in a tableau evoking her surreally styled boutiques. The second and largest section features a variety of the creations that Bartsch and her friends have worn at her famous club nights at Savage, Copacabana, and Le Bains, with a special section devoted to the AIDS balls. The final section evokes her apartment at the Chelsea Hotel, the center of her creative world. Videos and projected photographs throughout the exhibition document Bartsch’s 30 years of sartorial self-expression and its influence on the global fashion scene.

Susanne at a Swiss dance event at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, January 2015. Photo by Robin Souma

Susanne at a Swiss dance event at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, January 2015. Photo by Robin Souma

Susanne Bartsch, 1990s. Photograph by Andrea Barbiroli.

Susanne Bartsch, 1990s. Photograph by Andrea Barbiroli.

The exhibition, curated by Valerie Steele and Susanne Bartsch and designed by Kim Ackert after a concept by Thierry Loriot, will be accompanied by a book by Steele and Melissa Marra. A two-day symposium will feature a range of designers, performers, and scholars speaking on fashion, creativity, nightlife, and performance art.

The Museum at FIT, which is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Musée de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion, with a mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs.

The museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology that has been at the crossroads of commerce and creativity for 70 years. With programs that blend hands-on practice, a strong grounding in theory, and a broad-based liberal arts foundation, FIT offers career education in nearly 50 areas, and grants associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. FIT provides students with a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers. Visit fitnyc.edu.

The Couture Council is a philanthropic membership group that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon held every September.

Costume Institute’s Fall Exhibition to Focus on Fashion Icon Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style

The Costume Institute’s Fall 2015 exhibition, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, will focus on the internationally renowned style icon Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, whose originality and elegance established her as one of the most celebrated fashion personas of the 20th century. The exhibition will be on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center from November 19, 2015 through February 21, 2016.  

A close study of de Ribes’s life of creative expression yields illuminating insights into her strategies of style,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who is organizing the exhibition. “Her approach to dress as a statement of individuality can be seen as a kind of performance art. When she established her own fashion house, her friend Yves Saint Laurent gave his blessing to the venture as a welcome projection of her elegance.”

Countess Jacqueline de Ribes (born 1929 in Paris to aristocratic parents) is seen by many as the ultimate personification of Parisian elegance. She was, with the American and Italian beauties Gloria Vanderbilt and Marella Agnelli, among the small flock of “Swans” photographed by Richard Avedon and written about by Truman Capote in 1959. 

Married at age 19 to Édouard, Vicomte de Ribes (he became the Count de Ribes upon the death of his father in 1981), the traditions of her in-laws precluded her from becoming a career woman. An independent spirit, she channeled her creativity into a series of ventures linked by fashion, theater, and style. In 1956, de Ribes was nominated for Eleanor Lambert’s Best-Dressed List. At the time, she had only a handful of couture dresses, as most of her wardrobe was comprised of her own designs, which she made herself or with a dressmaker.  Four more nominations followed, and resulted in her induction into the International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1962.  

Photographed by the world’s leading talents including Slim Aarons, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Robert Doisneau, Horst, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Irving Penn, Francesco Scavullo, Victor Skrebneski, and Juergen Teller, her image came to define an effortless elegance and a sophisticated glamour.

In 1999, Jean Paul Gaultier dedicated his haute couture collection to her with the title “Divine Jacqueline,” and in 2010, she received the Légion d’Honneur from then French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her philanthropic and cultural contributions to France.

The thematic exhibition will feature approximately 60 ensembles of haute couture and ready-to-wear primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from 1959 to the present. Also included will be her creations for fancy dress balls, which she often made by cutting up and cannibalizing her haute couture gowns to create unexpected, thematic, and conceptually nuanced expressions of her aesthetic. These, along with photographs and ephemera, will tell the story of how her interest in fashion developed over decades, from childhood “dress-up” to the epitome of international style.  

A muse to haute couture designers, they placed at her disposal their drapers, cutters, and fitters in acknowledgment of their esteem for her taste and originality. Ultimately, she used this talent and experience to create her own successful design business, which she directed from 1982 to 1995.  

While the exhibition will focus on her taste and style methodology, extensive documentation from her personal archives will illustrate the range and depth of her professional life, including her roles as theatrical impresario, television producer, interior designer, architect, and director and organizer of international charity events.

Designers in the exhibition will include Giorgio Armani, Pierre Balmain, Bill Blass, Marc Bohan for House of Dior, Roberto Cavalli, Jacqueline de Ribes, John Galliano, Madame Grès (Alix Barton), Valentino Garavani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Norma Kamali, Guy Laroche, Ralph Lauren, Ralph Rucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Fernando Sanchez for Révillon Frères, and Emanuel Ungaro.

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style will run November 19, 2015–February 21, 2016 at the Anna Wintour Costume Center at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

 

The Museum at FIT Explores “Global Fashion Capitals”

Fashion & Textile History Gallery, June 2 – November 14, 2015
All photographs © The Museum at FIT
The globalization of fashion has given rise to new fashion cities that now annually host hundreds of fashion weeks around the world. Each city’s cultural identity and particular economic, political, and social circumstances combine to elevate its designers to international attention. Global Fashion Capitals explores the history of the established fashion capitals, Paris, New York, Milan, and London, and the emergence of 16 new fashion cities (including Tokyo, Antwerp, Stockholm, Berlin, St. Petersburg/Moscow, Madrid, Sydney/Melbourne, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Istanbul and Mumbai).
A fashion capital is a city which has a major influence on international fashion trends and in which the design, production and retailing of fashion products – plus events such as fashion weeks, awards and trade fairs – generate significant economic output. The cities considered the Big Four fashion capitals of the world are: London, Paris, Milan and New York.
Fashion capitals usually have a broad mix of business, financial, entertainment, cultural and leisure activities and are internationally recognised for having a unique and strong identity. It has also been noted that the status of a fashion capital has become increasingly linked to a city’s domestic and international profile. Fashion capitals are also likely be part of a wider design scene, with design schools, fashion magazines and a local market of affluent consumers.
The exhibition (at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York City 10001-5992) opens with a digital style map that geographically locates the fashion capitals and showcases their latest runway and street style photographs. Global Fashion Capitals continues city-by-city, starting with Paris, the birthplace of haute couture, represented by designs from Charles Frederick Worth, Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior, and the emerging couturier, Bouchra Jarrar.

Fashion has always existed at the crossroads of art and consumerism and never more so than in today’s society. The way we perceive our desires, bodies, and eras shapes fashion every season, as it shapes us. Paris fashion is at the center of it all. The French were the first to make an industry out of fashion, not just dress-making, and they have been exporting their style since the 17th century which is frankly before most of the world had even realized what fashion was. It all kicked off in the 17th century when the association of France with fashion and style was initiated by, surprise surprise, Louis XIV’s court.

The House of Worth, Cape, Circa 1890. Paris. Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Arden. 69.160.9 Hip-length cape in cream lace with wide neckline border of black silk velvet; trimmed with black silk chenille bobble tassels

The House of Worth, Cape, Circa 1890. Paris. Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Arden. 69.160.9
Hip-length cape in cream lace with wide neckline border of black silk velvet; trimmed with black silk chenille bobble tassels

The House of Worth, Cape, Circa 1890. Paris. Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Arden. 69.160.9 Hip-length cape in cream lace with wide neckline border of black silk velvet; trimmed with black silk chenille bobble tassels

The House of Worth, Cape, Circa 1890. Paris. Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Arden. 69.160.9
Hip-length cape in cream lace with wide neckline border of black silk velvet; trimmed with black silk chenille bobble tassels

The Sun King made it his business to be at the center of all that was beautiful in the world so the luxury goods industry in France became a royal commodity. The creation of the fashion press in the 1670s catapulted French fashion into the spotlight and the notions of different fashion “seasons” and the changing of styles became available to a bigger audience. Louis XIV himself was responsible for starting the trend for outrageous wigs of curled hair. The king was going bald so he over-compensated and the rest of the court followed suit.

Balenciaga , Cocktail dress , 1959, Paris. Gift of Kay Kerr Uebel. 75.170.1_20050512_01 Short evening dress in chartreuse ribbed silk with black chinÈ r; with bateau neckline; bubble skirt on hip yoke; and attached black satin ribbon tie; separate coordinating black satin ribbon sash

Balenciaga , Cocktail dress , 1959, Paris. Gift of Kay Kerr Uebel. 75.170.1_20050512_01
Short evening dress in chartreuse ribbed silk with black chinÈ r; with bateau neckline; bubble skirt on hip yoke; and attached black satin ribbon tie; separate coordinating black satin ribbon sash

In fact, he moved the needle towards extravagant fashion even more so because of his wigs. The French Royal court turned into a farcical game of one-upmanship where fashion was concerned – Whose wig is the tallest? Whose skirt is the widest and most covered in tiny bows? In Paris fashion big was the rage. This was most evident in the french movie, Ridicule, the 1996 French film set in the 18th century at the decadent court of Versailles, where social status can rise and fall based on one’s ability to mete out witty insults and avoid ridicule oneself, as well as one’s ability to be the most preening peacock in the room. The story also examines the social injustices of late 18th century France, in showing the corruption and callousness of the aristocrats.

The rebels were, of course, very quick to change all this and went very fast towards the opposite direction — what before had been of a baroque, almost decadent, excess, now everything was simple — as per the ideas of the era and also because hygiene had improved wonders by now and people had to buy more fabric to have at least one piece of clothing to wear while they cleaned the other one. And then the 1800s came and department stores were opened, giving a boost to Paris fashion. Instead of courtiers, France now had the bourgeoisie and, as the driving force that made the economy move from hand to hand (as in, they could actually move money around), French fashion found its way into society.

It wasn’t long until the couturier (designer) was born. It is, of course, as usually with designers, a controversial statement, but a man from England named Charles Frederick Worth is more or less accepted into the popular vernacular as the man who totally dominated the industry. He was the first to be considered a designer and not just a dressmaker – he invented the fashion show and the fashion label as a status symbol. He went on to become so successful and respected, in fact, that he earned the final say on whatever their customers were going to wear, regardless of their opinion. He also came up with the idea of actually sketching the design before producing an expensive sample garment. He was hailed as a genius for that.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the French fashion industry exploded (Vogue was founded in 1892) and Jacques Doucet and Madeline Vionnet founded fashion houses. They were influenced by Art Nouveau and Orientalist trends and so finally women were “liberated” from corsets and heavy petticoats and instead wore their whimsical designs with flowing bias-cut dresses. In 1925 a little known designer called Coco Chanel first came into prominence and revolutionized Paris fashion and then the world’s.

In 1947, the world’s attention was on Paris once more as Christian Dior unveiled his “New Look” – the clinched in waists contrasted with majestic busts and full skirts delighted the post-war clientele in its femininity. Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain both opened fashion houses soon after and Paris was the center of the world again.

The 1960s saw the Parisian youth becoming disillusioned with French fashion, (apparently too elegant and elaborate) favoring instead the casual style seen in London. In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent put Paris in the spotlight again with his a prêt-à-porter (“ready to wear”) line which made fashion accessible to the masses. In fact, even though Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin pushed fashion towards the future, creating bold shapes they always had to stay under YSL’s shadow. He was undoubtedly king of the latter part of the century. He pioneered the tuxedo suit for women, seducing everyone with his androgynous style and Left Bank beatnik chic.***

The New York section begins with a circa 1938 iridescent evening gown by Nettie Rosenstein and ends with Alexander Wang’s sporty spring/summer 2015 neon orange dress. New York also includes styles by Claire McCardell, Halston, and Ralph Lauren.
Nettie Rosenstein, Evening dress, Circa 1938, New York, Gift of Gloria Carr de Veynac. 76.32.1

Nettie Rosenstein, Evening dress, Circa 1938, New York, Gift of Gloria Carr de Veynac. 76.32.1

Claire McCardell, Dress, 1954, New York . Gift of Sally Kirkland. 76.33.34_20080425_01 Sleeveless dress in beige muslin with black windowpane check; fitted midriff panel; calf-length flared skirt; wide wrap & tie sash

Claire McCardell, Dress, 1954, New York . Gift of Sally Kirkland. 76.33.34_20080425_01
Sleeveless dress in beige muslin with black windowpane check; fitted midriff panel; calf-length flared skirt; wide wrap & tie sash

Milan claimed its place as Italy’s fashion capital during the 1970s. Milan has established a long history within the fields of fashion, textiles and design in general. Throughout the late 19th century, the Lombard capital was a major production centre, benefitting from its status as one of the country’s salient economic and industrial powerhouses. Milanese fashion, despite taking inspiration from the leading Parisian couture of the time, developed its own approach, which was by nature devoted to sobriety, simplicity and the quality of the fabric. Throughout the 20th century, the city expanded its role as a fashion centre, with a number of rising designers contributing to Milan’s image as a stylistic capital. Following this development, Milan emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the world’s pre-eminent trendsetters, maintaining this stint well into the 1990s and 2000s and culminating with its entrenchment as one of the “big four” global fashion capitals. As of today, Milan is especially renowned for its role within the prêt-à-porter category of fashion.

Milan’s fashion history has evolved greatly throughout the years. Milan began as a center of fashion in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as in Venice and Florence, the making of luxury goods was an industry of such importance that in the 16th century the city gave its name to the English word “milaner” or “millaner”, meaning fine wares like jewellery, cloth, hats and luxury apparel. By the 19th century, a later variant, “millinery”, had come to mean one who made or sold hats.

In the mid-19th century cheaper silk began to be imported from Asia and the pest phylloxera damaged silk and wine production. More land was subsequently given over to industrialisation. Textile production was followed by metal and mechanical and furniture manufacture. In 1865, the first major department store in the country opened in Milan by the Bocconi brothers (which was called Alle Città d’Italia and later in 1921 became La Rinascente). This was regarded as a novelty at the time with regards to retailing in Italy. Though, traditionally, artisans would sell the items they made directly or to small stores, the opening of these new department stores modernized the distributions of clothes in the city.

In the 1880s and late 19th century, the Milanese style was partially inspired by French fashion, which at the time was still dominant in terms of influence, yet adapted according to local tastes; this included a generally somber and simple style, which was moderate in terms of decoration and ornamentation, and put an emphasis on the quality of tailoring and the different fabrics and textiles. The general Milanese interest in styling was reflected in the number of fashion magazines which circulated in the city at the time, as well as the fact that the people were ready to follow trends; nevertheless, the Milanese style was relatively traditional. The city had several tailors and seamstresses which in 1881 amounted to 249 and in 1886 to 383 (which were listed in guides).

In this period, the city was one of the biggest industrial powerhouses in Italy, and had a diversified fashion and clothing economy which was mainly based on small workshops rather than large companies (highlighted in an 1881 census). The importance of this industry continued in the city into the early 20th century, where 42,711 out of 175,871 workers were in the clothing sector in 1911.
However, in the 1970s, Milan’s fashion image became more glamorous, and as Florentine designs were deemed to be “very formal and expensive”, the city became a more popular shopping destination, with numerous boutiques which sold both elegant and everyday clothes. Milanese designs were known for their practicality and simple elegance, and became more popular and affordable than Florentine and Parisian designs. The city became one of the main capitals for ready-to-wear female and male fashion in the 1970s.  Milan started to become an internationally successful and famous fashion capital towards the late-1980s and early 1990s.
Milan has been home to numerous fashion designers, including Giorgio Armani, Valentino Garavani, Gianni Versace, Gianfranco Ferrè,Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana, Miuccia Prada, Mariuccia Mandelli alias Krizia, Antonio Marras, Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Franco Moschino, Gimmo Etro, Mila Schön, Nicola Trussardi, Ottavio Missoni, Donatella Versace, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Giuseppe Zanotti in addition to Fausto Puglisi, Francesco Scognamiglio, Alessandra Facchinetti, Gabriele Colangelo, Simonetta Ravizza, Stella Jean and Marco De Vincenzo, just to name a few younger designers.
Prada , Ensemble , Fall 2007, Milan, Gift of Prada, 2007.20.1 Coat with black textured wool blazer fringed with plastic strips, stitched to orange fleece skirt with rust pile hem band; red silk ribknit toeless stockings; black satin shoes with hardware buckle, high curved heel and back covered in taupe satin

Prada , Ensemble , Fall 2007, Milan, Gift of Prada, 2007.20.1
Coat with black textured wool blazer fringed with plastic strips, stitched to orange fleece skirt with rust pile hem band; red silk ribknit toeless stockings; black satin shoes with hardware buckle, high curved heel and back covered in taupe satin

Most of the major Italian fashion houses and labels are based in Milan, even though many of them were founded in other cities. They include: Armani, Bottega Veneta, Canali, Costume National, Dolce & Gabbana, Dsquared2, Etro, Iceberg, Les Copains, Marni, Missoni, Miu Miu, Moncler, Frankie Morello, Moschino, MSGM, N°21, Prada, Fausto Puglisi, Tod’s, Trussardi, Valentino, Versace, Giuseppe Zanotti, Zagliani, Ermenegildo Zegna, and the eyewear company Luxottica.
Christopher Kane, Dress, Fall 2014, London, Museum Purchase, 2015.15.1

Christopher Kane, Dress, Fall 2014, London, Museum Purchase, 2015.15.1

Christopher Kane, Dress, Fall 2014, London, Museum Purchase, 2015.15.1

Christopher Kane, Dress, Fall 2014, London, Museum Purchase, 2015.15.1

London captured international attention with “youthquake” fashions during the 1960s. Provocative designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen established London as a creative fashion hub during the decades since.

 

When selecting which emerging fashion capitals to include in the exhibition, the curators considered a number of indicators to show that a city’s fashion scene is growing. All the featured cities are home to forward-thinking designers who have achieved domestic success and attracted international interest. They also hold fashion weeks attended by international press and fashion buyers.

 

 

Several factors drive the development of a city’s fashion scene—politics, economics, and government support among them. For example, Johannesburg fashion blossomed during the post-apartheid era, led by designers such as Nkhensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherrie. Current events in Ukraine have ignited the creativity of designers such as Anton Belinskiy, who staged a photoshoot amid Kiev’s street protests.
China’s economic growth over the last decade created consumer demand for international fashion, developing into support for successful domestic designers, such as Shanghai’s Masha Ma. Nigeria’s economy, the largest in Africa, supports Lagos’ developing fashion industry and the growing international reach of brands like Maki Oh and Lisa Folwaiyo. The governments of Copenhagen and Seoul actively fund and promote their fashion industries.
On October 13, 2015, The Museum at FIT, in conjunction with CUNY Graduate Center, will host a one day symposium on the topic of global fashion capitals. The morning session will take place on the FIT campus and will consist of a student fair, where visitors can interact with members of the international fashion community. The morning will also include a fashion show featuring five designers from emerging fashion capitals and a panel discussion moderated by MFIT curators Ariele Elia and Elizabeth Way. The afternoon session will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center, details to follow.
Global Fashion Capitals is organized by Ariele Elia, assistant curator of costume and textiles, and Elizabeth Way, curatorial assistant, The Museum at FIT.

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PUNK FASHION WILL BE FOCUS OF SPRING 2013 COSTUME INSTITUTE EXHIBITION AT METROPOLITAN MUSEUM

GALA BENEFIT MAY 6, 2013, WITH CO-CHAIRS ROONEY MARA, LAUREN SANTO DOMINGO, RICCARDO TISCI, AND ANNA WINTOUR

The spring 2013 exhibition organized by THE COSTUME INSTITUTE of THE METROPOLITAN

MUSEUM OF ART will be PUNK: Chaos to Couture. The exhibition, on view from MAY 9 through AUGUST 11, 2013 (preceded on May 6 by THE COSTUME INSTITUTE BENEFIT), will examine punk’s impact on high fashion from the movement’s birth in the 1970s through its continuing influence today

The exhibition is organized by ANDREW BOLTON, CURATOR, in THE MET’S COSTUME INSTITUTE. Photographer NICK KNIGHT is the exhibition’s creative consultant working with exhibition design consultant SAM GAINSBURY (who was creative director for the Met’s ALEXANDER MCQUEEN: SAVAGE BEAUTY exhibition in 2011) and production designer GIDEON PONTE (a set and production designer for photo shoots and feature films including Buffalo 66 and American Psycho). All mannequin head treatments and masks will be designed by GUIDO PALAU, who also created treatments for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty and last year’s Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.

Richard Hell, late 1970sCourtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph © Kate Sim

Richard Hell, late 1970s
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph © Kate Sim

The exhibition, in the Museum’s second-floor Iris and B. Gerald Cantor galleries, will feature approximately 100 designs for men and women. Original punk garments from the mid-1970s will be juxtaposed with recent, directional fashion to illustrate how haute couture and ready-to-wear have borrowed punk’s visual symbols, with paillettes being replaced with safety pins, feathers with razor blades, and bugle beads with studs. Focusing on the relationship between the punk concept of ‘do-it-yourself‘ and the couture concept of ‘made-to-measure,’ the exhibition will be organized around the materials, techniques, and embellishments associated with the anti-establishment style. Presented as an immersive multimedia, multisensory experience, the clothes will be animated with period music videos and soundscaping audio techniques. Continue reading