From Azzedine Alaïa to Yves Saint Laurent: The Fashion Exhibits of 2012

Our guide to this year’s best fashion exhibits.

Did you miss the magical Savage Beauty exhibit at the MET last year?  Take comfort by buying the book – a showstopper in itself – and vow not to miss another this year. Curatorial staff are realizing the particular appeal of fashion exhibits and the increased ticket sales potential. If an article in WWD on how museums are “getting fashionable” is any indication, they’ve cottoned on. “There’s a loyal following — besides the fact that fashion is fashionable,” Pamela Golbin, chief curator at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris was quoted, “There’s something very intimate about clothes.” More and more new fashion exhibits are popping up here in the United States all over the world. Several exciting ones are due to debut this year.

Here are our top 10 don’t-miss fashion exhibits of 2012.

1.  Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion, opens May 10 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Featuring over 80 designs by Schiaparelli and an installation that will give the effect of the two designers being in conversation with one another on subjects such as art, politics and the role of women now and then. With director Baz Luhrman serving as the exhibition’s creative consultant this show promises to follow up on the success of last year’s groundbreaking Alexander McQueen exhibit.

2. FIT NY and the CFDA collaborate to celebrate Impact: Fifty Years of the CFDA at the FIT museum from the 10th of February through until the 17th of April. The leading trade organization of fashion designers presents a tribute to the creativity of American talent and will showcase designs from Halston, Norman Norell, Pauline Trigère, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Rudi Gernreich, Bob Mackie, James Galanos, Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tom Ford, Michael Kors, Isabel Toledo, Rodarte, and Proenza Schouler.

3. Chanel: Designs for the Modern Woman at the Mint Museum Randolph in CharlotteNorth Carolina continues thru February 26. Pioneering clothing that was comfortable, casual and enduring in its construction and style, Coco Chanel (1883-1971) remains a pivotal figure responsible for much of what is still considered modern in women’s fashion in the 21st century.

4. A retrospective of designer Christian Louboutin at London’s Design Museum opens March 28 – July 1 and promises to be as red-hot as his signature soles. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a coffee table book documenting Lobuoutin’s work. Mulholland Drive director David Lynch photographed some of the designer’s most fantastical creations and John Malkovich wrote the foreword.

5. If you are in London, you must check out Fifty Years of James Bond Style at the Barbican, opening in April. In addition to Mr. Bond’s Savile Row tailoring, expect to see  lavish Bond-girl finery by Giorgio Armani, Givenchy, Roberto Cavalli, Thierry Mugler, Miuccia Prada, Oscar de la Renta, Emanuel Ungaro and Donatella Versace.

6. Also opening in the 2012 Olympic Games host city is the sure-to-impress Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum 
running May 19, thru January 26, 2013. Featuring evening wear from the V&A’s vast collection of British designers, the exhibit will show a selection of royal ballgowns including a Norman Hartnell gown designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Diana’s “Elvis Dress” designed by Catherine Walker and gowns worn by today’s young royals.

7. Paying tribute to the legendary French designer Yves Saint Laurent — The Retrospective opens March 25 at the Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colarado. Organized thematically, the presentation showcases over 200 pieces that explore the full arc of Saint Laurent’s developing style and turbulent inner life.

8. If you didn’t catch The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas (runs thru February 12) head to San Francisco’s Deyoung Museum where it will run from March 24  – August 19. Dubbed fashion’s enfant terrible, his often provocative messages are enhanced by the sublime construction of his clothing.

9. Set to open on the last night of Paris Fashion Week, March 9, and run until September 16 at the famous Museé des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the Louis Vuitton – Marc Jacobs exhibit weighs the careers of both designers. The show aims to compare their bodies of work and offers a potential explanation as to why Jacobs and his ready-to-wear approach could never replace Galliano at Dior.

10. Azzedine Alaïa in the 21st Century currently at the Groninger Museum in Holland and running thru May 6, celebrates the body-con creations of the great Tunisian-born couturier. Now in his 70’s, the designer recently became an outspoken proponent of slow fashion, saying “Four collections for women, four collections for men, another four collections to sell, and everything needs do be done within four, five months—it’s a one-way course towards emptiness. It’s inhuman.”

Top Image: Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.