Today we’re taking you on a virtual tour through The Museum at FIT's current exhibition Global Fashion Capitals, an exhibition that explores the history of established fashion capitals—Paris, New York, Milan, and London—and the emergence of 16 new fashion cities. The Curators of the show, Elizabeth Way and Ariele Elia were asked to share snapshots of the exhibition along with special insights, facts and observations they've gathered through organizing the exhibit with the readers of Inside The Archive. Below you'll find several images of the exhibition paired with detailed descriptions given by Elizabeth (EW) and Ariele (AE).
Global Fashion Capitals is on view through Nov. 14, 2015 in the History Gallery of Fashion and Textiles at The Museum at FIT in NYC. For those of you who can't make it out to NYC to see this fascinating exhibit in person, we encourage you to explore the exhibition online through the eyes of the curators right here on ITA. Enjoy!
EW: Global Fashion Capitals is exhibited in the Museum at FIT’s History Gallery of Fashion and Textiles and so we always approach our exhibitions from a historical perspective, bringing it into the present day. The chronology of Global Fashion Capitals begins in Paris, the original fashion city. Fashion has been a significant industry in Paris since the 18th century, so selecting designers to represent Paris was extremely difficult—we could fill an entire exhibition with influential Parisian designers. I focused on a few who changed the direction of fashion in the city. The first piece on the far left is a lace and velvet mantle (circa 1890) by the Englishman Charles Frederick Worth. He is often credited the first couturier. Paul Poiret’s 1925 metallic brocade evening coat represents the revolutionary style he introduced during the first decades of the 20th century. Poiret promoted a looser, elongated silhouette and design details inspired by Asia and the Middle East. In the center is a jersey suit by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, circa 1935. Her chic, pared-down designs modernized Paris fashion during the 1920s and 1930s. The navy blue silk chiffon gown (circa 1950) is by Christian Dior, one of the most famous designers of the post-WWII period. After its occupation by the Germans during the war, some people doubted whether Paris could regain its place as the world’s fashion leader. Dior’s New Look helped calm those fears. He was so successful worldwide that in 1949 five percent of France’s exports came from the House of Dior. Cristóbal Balenciaga designed the 1959 chartreuse cocktail dress on the far right. Another immensely successful courtier, he was hailed as a genius for his expertise in shape and proportion. He is also a wonderful example of Paris’ ability to draw in talent from all over the world—Balenciaga began his career in his native Spain, but really found fame in Paris.
EW: This neoprene blazer and skirt ensemble (Spring 2014) is by Sydney-based designer Dion Lee. Fashion in Australia is centered on both Sydney and Melbourne, though Sydney seems to be more internationally visible. Australia’s creative designers established an independent aesthetic in the 1970s and 1980s, drawing inspiration from the art, music, and street style of the two cities, as well as Australia’s unique culture and geography. Sydney fashion week began in 1996, followed by the Melbourne Fashion Festival in 1997. Though domestically successful designers are found in both cities, many find it hard to break onto the international scene. Dion Lee is an exception. His designs, which utilize extremely sophisticated cuts and fabrications, have gained international notice at fashion weeks in London and now in New York. Online retailing has also been important in building his international clientele. Even with contemporary technology, Australia is still a 20+ hour plane ride from the established fashion capitals. Dion Lee has found ways to bypass this distance, while offering distinctive, innovative fashion.
EW: Seoul designer Lie Sang Bong established his brand in the 1980s and has since grown to national fame in South Korea—he currently serves as Chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of Korea. This fall 2006 ensemble (left) was showcased in Paris, bringing Lie international acclaim. The striking motif depicts Hangul or Korean script. Park Youn Soo is another well-established designer in Seoul. He created a new diffusion line in 2012 called Big Park, which is designed by his daughter Sooy. His other daughter Jay manages the textiles and prints. The two women collaborated on the graphic incorporated into this spring 2015 denim dress (right) drawing on their memories of childhood vacations in the Korean country side. Both LIE SANGBONG (his label’s name is completely capitalized, while his personal name is not) and Big Park tap into the varied culture of Seoul, which has been influencing fashion across Asia for more than a decade. The South Korean government is deeply invested in promoting its fashion abroad. Government organizations sponsor both Seoul fashion week and the Concept Korea initiative, which brings domestic designers to show at New York Fashion Week.
EW: Lagos, Nigeria established its fashion week in 2011 and just a year later won praise from fashion editor Suzy Menkes. Nigeria’s power industry supports the largest and fastest-growing economy in Africa and the Lagosian elite are known for purchasing luxury fashion in Europe. Enthusiasm for international fashion has created a customer base for domestic fashion brands, such as Maki Oh and Lisa Folawiyo. Maki Oh, designed by Amaka Osakwe, draws inspiration from African culture in unexpected ways. Her fall 2013 dress (left) depicts an angry girl’s face cut into the fringe. This collection captures African storytelling traditions and local village life in a layered narrative in which this girl is a character. Lisa Folawiyo designed this beaded Ankara (African print) dress (right) for her spring 2015 collection, which she showed in Lagos, New York, and Rome. Folawiyo melds Lagos’ rich traditions of sartorial display with fashion-forward silhouettes to create styles that speak both locally and globally. Folawiyo maintains ethical production processes, and both she and Osakwe employ local artisans, strengthening Lagos’ fashion system. Though the city faces challenges, ranging from infrastructure disruptions to trade barriers, Lagos holds potential as a significant fashion capital influencing fashion in Africa and beyond.
AE: We decided to open the exhibition with Istanbul because while it is a newer fashion city— establishing its fashion week in 2009—it has built a strong international presence in a short period. On the right is an ensemble from Arzu Kaprol, who is well established in Istanbul and Paris. She has stores all over Turkey and presents during both Istanbul fashion week and Paris couture week. We loved the graphic lightning bolt print and the sport flair the quilted jacket brought to the piece. This past season Style.com started covering emerging fashion cities such as Istanbul. Zenep Tosun is featured on the left, was highlighted on the style.com front page for Istanbul fashion week and described as a beloved figure in contemporary Turkish fashion”.
AE: New York began its rise as a fashion capital in the 1930s. While New York’s garment district was a thriving industry known for mass manufacturing clothing, it was lacking in fashion design. Nettie Rosenstein was an early designer recognized for her high end evening wear. She built up her wholesale company, which simultaneously helped to elevate the reputation of New York’s garment district. The 1943 introduction of Press Week, now known as New York Fashion Week put New York on the international fashion map. New York based magazines Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar began featuring New York designs alongside Parisian designer. Throughout the 1950s Claire McCardell created practical and affordable ready-to-wear dresses for the American woman. In the dress featured here, she used a single fabric, but changed the direction of the material to create various patterns within the dress. Bonnie Cashin cleverly incorporated functional elements, such as coin purses into her garments. During the 1970s, Halston rose as the first celebrity designer. His minimalistic designs captured the attention of the French during the battle of Versailles fashion show in 1973. Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen’s sportswear catered to the relaxed and busy lifestyle of American’s. Newer designers to emerge in the 21st century were Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang. For spring 2015 Wang was inspired by sneaker culture and recreated the textile used in Nike’s flyknit sneakers for this sportswear dress. New York Fashion Week currently hosts over 350 fashion shows and 20 international designers.
AE: Since the fall of the Berlin wall 1989 the city has been working to rebuild the image and reputation of the city. While Berlin is well known for its quality manufacturing, most people do not associate it with fashion. Upcoming designers such as Marina Hoermanseder (left) are introducing a fresh approach to fashion with her avant-garde creations. Hoermanseder was a recipient of the government supported initiative “Start Your Own Fashion Business”. After attending ESMOD Berlin, she went to London for further training and interned under Alexander McQueen. The quality in her design can be seen in the interwoven leather straps and molded fiberglass bodice. Kilian Kerner (right) is a well-established designer in Berlin. He incorporates Berlin’s music scene into his collections and runway presentations. Each season he writes a new song to be performed live at his shows. For this collection, he traveled to Dublin, Ireland to explore their music scene. The abstract print on this ensemble was created from photographs he took while on his trip.
AE: We selected Carla Fernandez (left) and Ricardo Seco (right) to represent Mexico City because they do a wonderful job of blending the indigenous arts with contemporary fashion. Mexico City is currently going through a cultural revolution with new architecture, restaurants, fashion schools, and a booming contemporary art scene. Throughout the city there is a push and pull between tradition and modernity. This is evident in both of these designers’ work. Fernandez highlights the charro (Mexican cowboy) in the purple suede cutwork along with the ammunition belt, worn by female soldiers during the Mexican Revolution. She has also created a mobile atelier Taller Flora that works with various indigenous tribes. Seco worked with the huichol tribe to hand bead the sneakers and create the textile for the bottom of the dress. He combines the huichol aesthetics with his urban street style, as can be seen in the bomber jacket.