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V&A Dundee to delve behind the scenes of a catwalk show

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: V&A Dundee; ‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’

Every element of a fashion show is a “conscious design choice,” explains V&A Dundee, Scotland’s design museum and the creative process behind the scenes will be examined in its new fashion exhibition opening next month.

‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes,’ runs from June 3 to January 2024 and aims to peel back the glamourous façade of a catwalk show and give an access-all-areas insight into the fashion world constructed by a creative community, featuring sketches from the front row, invitations and memorabilia.

The exhibition is curated by Iain R Webb, professor of fashion and design at Kingston School of Art and respected fashion writer and editor, in collaboration with V&A Dundee, and will go beyond the clothes being modelled and focus on those behind the scenes, the illustrators, graphic designers, set designers, photographers, hairstylists, and shoemakers.

Image: V&A Dundee; ‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’, Iain R Webb sketchbook

The majority of objects on display will be from Webb’s personal archive, amassed during his four-decade career in the fashion industry, including his sketchbooks from the front row, as well as invitations, personal notes and memorabilia from designers such as Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Helmut Lang.

There will also be rarely-seen photographs of models, designers and celebrities backstage at fashion shows and fashion week parties, featuring the likes of Björk, Linda Evangelista, Boy George, Grace Jones, Alexander McQueen, and Vivienne Westwood.

The objects and paraphernalia, which are all part of the fabric and culture of the fashion show, offer insight into the sociocultural context of the time in which they were created, adds V&A Dundee, in particular, the 1980s to the early 2000s, before the democratising effects of the internet, social media and fashion bloggers, when international fashion shows and collection previews were primarily private, invitation-only events staged behind closed doors.

Image: V&A Dundee; ‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’, Christian Lacroix sketch invitations

V&A Dundee - 'The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes' opens on June 3

Commenting on the upcoming show, Iain R Webb said in a statement: “I am thrilled to be invited by V&A Dundee to unpack the fashion show experience and continue to explore themes such as image making, presentation, collaboration, interpretation and the art of documentation via my personal archive.

“Whenever I returned from the international fashion weeks my suitcase was always heavier, laden with invitations that others would throw away and sketchbooks full of ideas. While rooted in one individual’s perspective and experiences, I hope the show will tell many different stories of the many different creative collaborators around the designer and transport the visitors beyond the catwalk’s edge, giving them an uncustomary view of the fashion show.”

Image: V&A Dundee; ‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’, model Helena Christensen and designer Vivienne Westwood backstage photo courtesy of Iain R Webb

Francesca Bibby, curator at V&A Dundee, added: “This exhibition is an opportunity to shine a light on the networks of different creative disciplines within the fashion industry; the makers, artists, illustrators and journalists who play an integral role in interpreting and communicating a fashion designer’s concepts across different media.

“Iain has been so generous in sharing his archive, stories and process as a writer and editor with us. This spirit of generosity translates into an exhibition packed full of objects, photographs and illustrations; all of which we hope will spark visitors’ curiosity and provide a glimpse of the creativity and ingenuity present behind the scenes of a fashion show.”

‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’ will be supported by an accompanying programme of discussions and talks at V&A Dundee.

Image: V&A Dundee; ‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’
Iain R Webb
V&A Dundee