Now It Can Be Told: “Black Fashion Designers” At The Museum at FIT

Without dwelling too deeply on the root cause (for the moment), it’s very rare to find black fashion designers represented in a great many of the recent costume exhibitions at museums great and small across the United States. At this moment, if you want to see a decent and wide-ranging look at black fashion designers, you would have to visit the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., where designs from Tracy Reese,  other black fashion designers and other creative men and women are on permanent display. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (The Museum at FIT, Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York City 10001-5992), since 1975, has continuously work to create exhibitions, programs, and publications that are both entertaining and educational. Black Fashion Designer is eye-opening, entertaining and above all else, quite educational. It’s a good start.

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Mimi Plange, dress, Spring 2013, USA, Gift of Mimi Plange, 2016.49.1

Black Fashion Designers, opening December 6, 2016 (Fashion & Textile History Gallery, December 6 – May 16, 2017) at The Museum at FIT, examines the significant, but often unrecognized, impact that designers of African descent have had on fashion. The exhibition features approximately 75 fashions by more than 60 designers. Although there have been exhibitions (few and far between) on individual black designers, this is the first major exhibition in many years that highlights the global history of black fashion designers from the 1950s to the present. All of the objects on display are part of the permanent collection of The Museum at FIT.

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Patrick Kelly, dress, Fall/Winter 1986, France, Museum purchase, 2016.48.1

Black Fashion Designers opens with a fall 1986 evening dress by Patrick Kelly, embellished with vintage buttons. Buttons were a recurring motif for Kelly, whose grandmother would mend the family’s clothing. Alongside it is a fall 2012 ensemble by Nigerian-born, British designer Duro Olowu, whose knowledge of international textiles and affinity for mixing prints is evident in an intricate lace cape.

The introductory section of the exhibition also includes a beautiful wedding gown by society dressmaker Ann Lowe, who is best known for designing Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. Lawrence Steele, a Milan-based African-American designer, is represented by a stunning black evening dress accented with Swarovski crystals. Lagos-based designer Amaka Osakwe was inspired by the rich history of Nigerian story-telling when creating her contemporary, cut-fringe dress. Another highlight is Laura Smalls’s red-and-white floral print dress—famously worn by First Lady Michelle Obama when she sang with rapper Missy Elliot on James Corden’s carpool karaoke.

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Ann Lowe, wedding dress, 1968, USA, Gift of Judith A. Tabler, 2009.70.2

Black Fashion Designers is organized into eight themes, beginning with “Breaking Into the Industry,” which examines black designers working in New York. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Arthur McGee and Wesley Tann challenged discrimination in the industry. Other designers followed in their footsteps, playing a major role in building New York as a fashion capital. During the 1970s and 1980s, for example, Willi Smith built a large, international fashion house from his quirky twists on classic sportswear, seen in a multicolored, striped ensemble. Today, Tracy Reese is an indispensable mainstay. Her multicolored striped gown shows her feminine and elegant style.

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Lawrence Steele, dress, Spring 2002, Italy, Gift of Lawrence Steele, 2016.62.1

The next theme, “The Rise of the Black Designer,” focuses on the period from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, when disco music and dance clubs inspired fashion. Stephen Burrows’s gold evening pajamas and Scott Barrie’s black-and-red silk jersey wrap dress, defined the era’s glamorous, body-conscious style. The fashion and mainstream press of the 1970s celebrated black designers such as Burrows and Barrie, in contrast to today, when only one percent of the designers shown on VogueRunway.com are black. Continue reading

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s School of Graduate Studies and The Museum at FIT Celebrates “The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958”

Gallery FIT, March 1 – April 2, 2016

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s School of Graduate Studies, together with The Museum at FIT, present The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936-1958, an exhibition that explores the dynamic collaboration among Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Carmel Snow, Fashion Editor Diana Vreeland, and photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. For twenty-two years, this visionary trio transformed Harper’s Bazaar into the definitive American fashion magazine, with a point of view that was simultaneously fresh and sophisticated, intelligent and playful—what Snow memorably described as a publication for “welldressed women with well-dressed minds.”

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Model Bijou Barrington on location in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

This will mark the first time this important collaboration has been examined in an exhibition, and it anticipates Harper’s Bazaar’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936-1958 is the first exhibition to focus on the interaction between these three individuals, highlighting collaboration as an essential component of the creative process. With their brilliant colors, arresting compositions, and faraway locales, the Louise Dahl-Wolfe photographs that comprise the heart of the exhibition convey an idea of fashion as a conduit to a more vivid existence.

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Model Betty Bridges in Tijuca, Brazil wearing a Claire McCardell swimsuit. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, May 1946. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

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Claire McCardell, swimsuit, 1946. Bathing suit in heathered grey wool jersey; high boat neck, long torso with fitted waist, “diaper” bottoms with high cut leg; LS metal zipper. Collection of The Museum at FIT. © The Museum at FIT.

Vreeland, Dahl-Wolfe, and Snow reinvigorated Harper’s Bazaar by combining their individual talents: Diana Vreeland’s imaginative, resourceful approach to her work, Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s ability to create photographic masterpieces in natural settings, and the forward-thinking attitude and creativity behind Carmel Snow’s “genius for picking other people of genius.”

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Model wearing the Mystère coat by Christian Dior in Paris at Malmaison. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, November 1947. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

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Christian Dior New York, coat, 1954. Black wool herringbone calf-length princess coat; V-neck vest front with shawl collar; front inverted pleats; stiffened underlining at hip Dress, sea green changeant silk, stylized shirtwaist, matching belt. Collection of The Museum at FIT. © The Museum at FIT.

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958 focuses on a pivotal time in the history of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Drawing from The Museum at FIT’s extensive collection of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s color photographs—donated by the photographer herself—the exhibition highlights original photographs shown alongside nine garments by Christian Dior, Charles James, Mainbocher, Claire McCardell, and Carolyn Schnurer that exemplify the vast array of captivating styles featured in Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition opens with an embroidered, elephant-motif top by American designer Carolyn Schnurer. This piece epitomizes the designer’s whimsical sportswear, perfectly suited to an American woman’s lifestyle during the era. It is paired with a photograph of the same garment in an inverted color scheme that was featured in the December 1952 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition continues with sections dedicated to each of the three women, showcasing their individual contributions. Snow had a forward-thinking attitude, Vreeland took an imaginative approach to fashion styling, and Dahl-Wolfe explored advancements in color photography and pioneered on-location shooting in destinations such as Egypt and São Paulo. Their talents combined to make Harper’s Bazaar a definitive fashion magazine of the time.

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Model Jean Patchett in Alhambra, Granada Spain wearing a Givenchy ensemble. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, June 1953. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

The impact of the women’s collaborative process is demonstrated through a series of photographs and documents. On display are personal letters between Snow and model Mary Jane Russell describing a memorable fashion editorial from the Paris collections of 1951. Behind-the-scenes photographs and outtakes document the famous 1942 Arizona desert photo shoot at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pauson house—styled by Vreeland—during which she stepped in front of the camera after model Bijou Barrington fell ill from heat stroke. 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.

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.

Continue reading

Trend-ology: New Exhibition to Open at The Museum at FIT

Fashion & Textile History Gallery at The Museum at FIT

December 3, 2013 – April 30, 2014

The Museum at FIT will present Trend-ology, a new exhibition that examines the sources from which fashion trends have emerged over the past 250 years. Themes highlighted include 18th-century court dress, the rise of the couturier in 19th-century Paris, hip hop fashion, and more recent developments related to blogging, fast fashion, and social-media networking. Featuring approximately 100 objects from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition will also highlight industry developments that have had an impact on how trends propagate. The show features designs by Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Rei Kawakubo, Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela, and Opening Ceremony, to name a few. Also on view is a video produced exclusively for Trend-ology, featuring interviews with fashion insiders Simon Doonan, Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo, Saul Lopez Silva of WGSN, and many others.

(left) Rodarte, evening dress, black and nude net, wool, black leather, beads, cheese cloth, and metal gauze, spring 2010, USA, museum purchase, (right) Rodarte for Target, evening dress, polyester crepe chiffon, 2009, USA, gift of The Fashion and Textile Studies Department and the School of Graduate Studies

(left) Rodarte, evening dress, black and nude net, wool, black leather, beads, cheese cloth, and metal gauze, spring 2010, USA, museum purchase, (right) Rodarte for Target, evening dress, polyester crepe chiffon, 2009, USA, gift of The Fashion and Textile Studies Department and the School of Graduate Studies

Fashion trends change every season, with shifts in print, color, material, embellishment, and silhouette. These derive from a variety of sources, including urban street style, art, music, film, and socio-political movements. The word “trend” first arose as an economic term used to describe shifts in financial markets. Today, the word is ubiquitous in the fashion media, and trend forecasting companies have made researching and predicting trends a profitable business.

Yet, as we move further into the 21st century, specific trends seem increasingly hard to define. The advent of fast fashion, the internet, and social media have created a quick-paced global environment in which fashion trends emerge and spread in faster and more complex ways than ever before. By looking back at the history of trends, Trend-ology aims to help viewers gain insight into the current state of the trend cycle.

Louis Vuitton (Takashi Murakami), “Speedy 30” monogram handbag, multicolor monogram canvas, 2003, France, museum purchase

Louis Vuitton (Takashi Murakami), “Speedy 30” monogram handbag, multicolor monogram canvas, 2003, France, museum purchase

Trend-ology will open with an overview of 21st-century developments in fashion retailing. These will include examples from fast-fashion companies, such as Zara, H&M, and Topshop, that have contributed to the increasing fascination–and anxiety–surrounding trends. High-low collaborations, including a “Rodarte for Target” sequined dress from 2009, will be juxtaposed with high fashion designs–in this case, a runway piece from Rodarte’s spring 2010 collection. A selection of “It” bags, including a Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 bag designed in collaboration with Japanese artist Takeshi Murakami, will illustrate how important the sale of accessories has become to luxury brands during the new millennium. To highlight the recent emergence of concept stores, the introductory section will culminate with ensembles from Opening Ceremony and Colette.

The exhibition’s historical chronology will begin with two 18th-century ensembles, one for a man and the other for a woman, rendered in vibrant shades of yellow. Once negatively associated with “heretics,” yellow became a trendy color in 18th-century dress. The change in yellow’s cultural meaning can be traced to the growing popularity in Europe of chinoiserie. In China, yellow was an auspicious color associated with the emperor.

(left) Dress, yellow silk faille, circa 1770, USA (possibly), museum purchase, (right) Men’s coat, yellow silk, circa 1790,  USA (possibly), museum purchase

(left) Dress, yellow silk faille, circa 1770, USA (possibly), museum purchase, (right) Men’s coat, yellow silk, circa 1790, USA (possibly), museum purchase

(left) Dress, yellow silk faille, circa 1770, USA (possibly), museum purchase, (right) Men’s coat, yellow silk, circa 1790,  USA (possibly), museum purchase

(left) Dress, yellow silk faille, circa 1770, USA (possibly), museum purchase, (right) Men’s coat, yellow silk, circa 1790, USA (possibly), museum purchase

Dress, tartan silk, circa 1812, Scotland, museum purchase

Dress, tartan silk, circa 1812, Scotland, museum purchase

A selection of tartan dresses will show a recurring international trend for tartan dress that emerged during the 19th century from the widespread popularity of Sir Walter Scott’s Scottish-themed novels.

Starting in the mid-19th century, the pace of the trend cycle was accelerated by certain capitalist developments, such as the emergence of the couture house and the subsequent rise of the department store. These developments will be addressed in Trend-ology with a dress, circa 1883, by couturier Charles Fredrick Worth shown alongside an ensemble from Lord & Taylor, circa 1895, and a Lord & Taylor mail-order catalogue from the same period. Continue reading