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10 fashion exhibitions to see in 2023

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: Stéphane Feugère, Karl Lagerfeld

In 2023, museums around the world are inviting fashion fans to get up close and personal with designers including Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Iris van Herpen, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen.

To help you plan your next exhibition, FashionUnited shares the 10 must-visit exhibits to see in 2023.

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty’

The Costume Institute’s spring 2023 exhibition will showcase the work of Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away in 2019, examining the “artistic methodology and stylistic vocabulary” of his designs through recurring themes seen from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019.

Running from May 5 to July 16, the ‘Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty’ exhibition will explore the late designer's “creative process, the evolution of his designs, and his everlasting impact on fashion”. It will feature approximately 150 pieces accompanied by his sketches to underscore his complex creative process.

Pier Paolo Righi, chief executive at Karl Lagerfeld, said in a statement: “Karl was a lover of multidisciplinary arts, and it’s the highest recognition for his work to be presented in such a monumental exhibition at The Met’s Costume Institute.

“As custodians of Karl’s legacy, we aim to bring his passion, intuition, and inexhaustible creativity to life in everything we do. We cannot imagine a more poignant or meaningful way to celebrate his colossal achievements — both the enduring impact he’s had on fashion and how it’s shaping the future.”

Image: V&A; 'Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto'

V&A: ‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’

The V&A is to host the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of French couturière Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, charting the evolution of her design style and the establishment of the House of Chanel, from her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to the showing of her final collection in 1971.

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ will run from September 16, 2023, to February 25, 2024, and will feature more than 180 looks, seen together for the first time, alongside jewellery, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes, which will explore Chanel’s pioneering approach to fashion design.

The exhibition, based on the Chanel exhibit organised by the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, will be reimagined for the V&A and feature “rarely seen pieces” from the V&A collection, alongside looks from Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de Chanel, the heritage collections of the fashion House in Paris.

Image: Yves Saint Laurent / Droits réservés; Robe du soir portée par Elsa Faùndez de Dodero - haute couture autumn/winter 1971

Museum of Lace and Fashion: ‘Yves Saint Laurent: Transparencies’

The Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais, France, is to host an exhibition dedicated to the work of French couturier Yves Saint Laurent examining how he used the effects of transparency of fabrics “to propose a new, powerful, and sensual female figure”.

Yves Saint Laurent: Transparencies’ will run from June 24 to November 12, and feature more than sixty pieces from the Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and the Museum of Lace and Fashion collections to highlight how much the couturier has been able “to overturn the codes of the unveiling of the female body”.

Garments will cover more than four decades from the couturier alongside accessories, drawings, photographs and videos, including the designer’s series of short dresses from the summer of 1966, his first see-through blouse, and his ‘Nude dress’ made entirely in transparent chiffon embellished with ostrich feathers.

Image: ‘Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse’ at National Gallery of Victoria; by Sean Fennessy

National Gallery of Victoria: ‘Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse’

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne is displaying the first major exhibition exploring the work of boundary-pushing British fashion designer Alexander McQueen in Australia. ‘Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse’ runs until April 16 and offers an “unprecedented insight into the mind of this seminal designer,” featuring more than 120 looks alongside 80 historical artworks including paintings, sculptures and photography that inspired or influenced his designs.

The exhibition is split into four themes: Mythos, Fashioned Narratives, Evolution and Existence, and Technique and Innovation, with McQueen’s designs, juxtaposed alongside artworks to offer a new perspective on the late designer's artistic process.

Highlights include some of the designer’s earliest and most acclaimed collections, including the controversial ‘Highland Rape’ (autumn/winter 1995–1996) and the poetic ‘The Widows of Culloden’ (autumn/winter 2006–2007), which both take inspiration from McQueen’s ancestry and Scottish history. The exhibition also includes in-depth presentations of ‘Deliverance’ (spring/summer 2004) and his final complete collection, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ (spring/summer 2010).

Image: Iris van Herpen, SS21

Musée des Arts Décoratifs: ‘Iris van Herpen’

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is to pay tribute to Iris van Herpen with an “immersive and sensory exploration into the designer’s universe” recognising the Dutch designer as one of the most avant-garde figures of her generation.

The ‘Iris van Herpen’ retrospective, running from November 29, 2023, to April 28, 2024, will merge fashion, contemporary art, design and science and revolves around eight themes that identify the “very essence” of van Herpen’s body of work.

The exhibition questions “the place of the body in space, its relationship to clothing and its environment as well as its future in a rapidly changing world,” featuring a selection of contemporary works of art, installations, videos, photographs and works from natural history, alongside a hundred dresses designed by Iris van Herpen. The Parisian museum will also recreate the designer’s Amsterdam studio and a space dedicated to her fashion shows.

The Fashion and Textile Museum: ‘Andy Warhol: The Textiles’

London’s Fashion and Textile Museum is to host an exhibition exploring “the beautiful and fascinating textile designs” by the influential pop artist and icon Andy Warhol for its spring 2023 exhibition.

‘Andy Warhol: The Textiles’ will run from March 31 to September 10 and will feature more than 45 of Warhol’s textile patterns from the 1950s and early 1960s, depicting an array of colourful objects including ice cream sundaes, toffee apples, colourful buttons, cut lemons, pretzels and jumping clowns exhibited both as fabric lengths, some in multiple colourways, and as garments.

The exhibition will highlight the “unknown and virtually unrecorded world of textile designs by the influential pop artist,” explains the museum, and will showcase some of the most important manufacturers in American textile history, such as Stehli Silks, Fuller Fabrics Inc., and M Lowenstein and Sons.

Image: Valentino; Qatar Museums ‘Forever Valentino’

Qatar Museums: ‘Forever Valentino’

Maison Valentino presents its largest exhibition to date and its first presentation in the Middle East with ‘Forever Valentino,’ in homage to its founder Valentino Garavani with Qatar Museums until April 1.

The exhibition, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director of the New Museum New York, and fashion critic and author Alexander Fury, alongside Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, features more than 200 Valentino Haute Couture pieces and prêt-à-porter outfits, alongside accessories and fashion objects that highlight the Maison’s six decades-long history.

Highlights include rarely-seen ensembles designed for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and, more recently, Zendaya.

Image: FashionUnited; Gianni Versace Retrospective at the Groninger Museum

Groninger Museum: ‘Gianni Versace Retrospective’

The late Gianni Versace, described by the Groninger Museum in Amsterdam as one of the “most influential couturiers” in fashion is the focus of the ‘Gianni Versace Retrospective’ exhibition running until May 7, 2023.

The exhibition is a “colourful, daring, emotional exhibition” look inside the eccentric Italian fashion designer’s world, showcasing his trailblazing designs and lavish catwalk shows of his glory days between 1989 and 1997.

Curated by Versace experts Karl von der Ahé and Saskia Lubnow, the exhibition showcases outfits, accessories, fabrics, drawings, and interior designs. They highlight how Versace linked fashion with music, photography and graphic design and led the way in the transformation of fashion shows and advertising campaigns into works of art.

Highlights include Versace’s Freedom collection from 1991, which turned supermodels Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington into global sensations, as well as the revealing black dress worn by Liz Hurley with giant gold safety pins up the sides.

Image: ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ by Daici Ano

Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo: ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’

The major Dior retrospective, which has been a success in Paris, London and New York, has been reworked for Japanese fans by curator Florence Müller along with a new scenographic narrative created by architect Shohei Shigematsu from the OMA agency in New York.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ runs until May 28 and celebrates the “deep friendship” between Dior and Japan, exploring the history and influence of the great couturier and the artistic directors who succeeded him featuring archival documents including letters, sketches and pieces from shows.

Driven by a dialogue between the Japanese aesthetic and Dior highlights include an enchanted garden featuring paperwork pieces by artist Ayumi Shibata, while the creations designed by the different artistic directors of Dior are showcased alongside photography by Yuriko Takagi, specially created for the exhibition.

Florence Müller, curator of the exhibition, said in a statement: “Christian Dior admired the Japanese for their capacity to “combine modernism and tradition”. A mutual and profound tale of admiration that went on to link Japan – the land of tradition and innovation – with the House, whose retro style revolutionised post-war fashion.

“With the first agreements signed in 1953 between Dior and Japanese textile companies of prestige, it was also the beginning of a fruitful cultural and artistic dialogue that lives on today with Maria Grazia Chiuri and this exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.”

Image: Yves Saint Laurent; Guy Marineau

Yves Saint Laurent Museum: ‘Gold by Yves Saint Laurent'

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the couturier’s first collection with an exhibition featuring more than 40 haute couture and ready-to-wear dresses, accessories and jewellery examining the role gold has played in his work.

Gold by Yves Saint Laurent' exhibition, open until May 14, 2022, highlights the couturier’s love affair with glitz and gold, and showcases how the colour gold has become essential to the Yves Saint Laurent silhouette. Saint Laurent's use of gold is seen throughout his work, from the gold buttons adorning his pea coats to dresses that appear entirely fashioned from gold, he has become known for adding the “golden” touch through fabric, jewellery, and perfume to empower women.

The exhibition is curated by Elsa Janssen and highlights Saint Laurent’s use of gold in a chrono-thematic journey through ornaments, fabrics and exquisite materials. Highlights include the jewelled dress designed from his autumn-winter 1966 collection and photographed by David Bailey, the molten metal effect evening dress in the spring/summer 1981 haute couture collection, and the Gypsy dress from the spring-summer 2000 haute couture collection featuring transparent fabric sprinkled with golden sparkles.