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London’s V&A places spotlight on menswear in 2022

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: courtesy of Gucci by Harmony Korine; Gucci Pre-Fall 2019 Men’s Tailoring Campaign

The V&A Museum in London has unveiled further details about its major menswear exhibition, ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear’ launching next year that will feature looks by Harris Reed, Gucci, Grace Wales Bonner, Rick Owens, JW Anderson, Comme des Garçons, Raf Simons, and Craig Green.

Opening March 2022, ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear’ will mark the first major V&A exhibition to celebrate the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance, with looks from fashion’s legendary designers and rising stars alongside historical treasures and acclaimed artworks.

The show will present around 100 looks and 100 artworks, displayed thematically across three galleries, which trace how menswear has been fashioned and refashioned over the centuries and how designers, tailors and artists, and their clients and sitters, have constructed and performed masculinity and unpicked it at the seams.

Image: courtesy of Harris Reed by Giovanni Corabi; Harris Reed Fluid Romanticism 001

Running from March 19 to November 6, 2022, the exhibition will display contemporary menswear looks from fashion designers like Harris Reed, Craig Green, Grace Wales Bonner and Raf Simons alongside historical treasures from the V&A’s collections and landmark loans, including classical sculptures, photographs, films, and Renaissance paintings. Highlights include paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola and Joshua Reynolds, artworks by Robert Longo and Omar Victor Diop, and an extract from an all-male dance performance by Matthew Bourne’s ‘New Adventures’.

Fashioning Masculinities will showcase possible masculinities across the centuries from the Renaissance to the global contemporary, with outfits worn by familiar faces interspersed throughout. From Harry Styles, Billy Porter and Sam Smith to David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, highlighting and celebrating the multiplicities of masculine sartorial self-expression, dressing beyond the binary.

Image: courtesy of Wales Bonner by Dexter Lander; Wales Bonner SS15 Afrique

Claire Wilcox and Rosalind McKever, co-curators of ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear,’ said in a statement: “Masculine fashion is enjoying a period of unprecedented creativity. It has long been a powerful mechanism for encouraging conformity or expressing individuality. Rather than a linear or definitive history, this is a journey across time and gender.

“The exhibition will bring together historical and contemporary looks with art that reveals how masculinity has been performed. This will be a celebration of the masculine wardrobe, and everyone is invited to join in.”

Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear exhibition to open at the V&A in March 2022

Image: courtesy of Craig Green by Amy Gwatkin

The exhibition will open with a Craig Green spring/summer 2021 ensemble of a deconstructed suit, alluding to the construction and deconstruction of both the masculine body and conventions of masculinity, a theme that will be central throughout the show’s three main galleries – Undressed, Overdressed, and Redressed.

Undressed will explore the male body and underwear in a utopian dreamscape, looking at how classical European ideals of masculinity have been perpetuated and challenged over the centuries. Plaster casts of the Apollo Belvedere and the Farnese Hermes, which highlight a tradition of depicting idealised male bodies draped in textiles that reveal more than they conceal, will be juxtaposed with modern and contemporary representations of the body, from prints and photography by David Hockney, Lionel Wendt, Zanele Muholi and Isaac Julien, to a Calvin Klein advertisement.

Fashion highlights from this section will include garments by Jean Paul Gaultier and A-Cold-Wall*’s Samuel Ross showcasing how fashion’s fascination with the body has seen changing masculine ideals from evoking classical drapery to sculpting flesh to celebrate body diversity. This will be exemplified in the exhibition by excerpts of ‘Arrested Movement’ by Anthony Patrick Manieri, an inclusive portrait series and awareness initiative celebrating and promoting positive body image.

Image: courtesy of Gucci; Alessandro Michele for Gucci AW15

Overdressed will take visitors into the elite masculine wardrobe in a “sumptuous, immersive space with courtly grandeur,” featuring oversized silhouettes, lavish materials like silk and velvet in daring colours, and symbolic patterns to express status, wealth and individuality. It will feature armoured breastplates, silky smoking suits, sweeping capes to ribbons and lace, including Grinling Gibbons’ wooden carving imitating a Venetian needlepoint lace cravat, displayed alongside real lace. The section will also include grooming, with makeup and shaving equipment.

Aristocratic portraits by Joshua Reynolds and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau will be displayed alongside pink ensembles by Harris Reed and Grace Wales Bonner, alongside fashion from Kim Jones for Fendi, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Rahemur Rahman, Ahluwalia and Orange Culture. There will also be a custom Randi Rahm suit and full-length embroidered cloak with a hot pink lining worn by Billy Porter at the Golden Globes in 2019.

Image: courtesy of Nicholas Daley by Man Kit Au-Yeung

The third section, Redressed, will explore the construction and dissolution of the suit, from Beau Brummell to the contemporary catwalk, reflecting on English country tailoring and the origins of the suit, with historic garments from the V&A collection shown alongside contemporary reimaginings, including a kilt by Nicholas Daley.

Redressed will also highlight how an abundance of mass-produced suits bred creativity as Mods, Teddy Boys and all manner of subcultures looked to define their styles through tailoring, explored in the exhibition through garments and photography. As well as how designers like Tom Ford for Gucci and Donatella Versace took their interest in leather to a new place, alongside a series of frock coats from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day with examples by Prada, Alexander McQueen and Raf Simons.

‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear’ runs from March 19 to November 6, 2022, at the V&A in London.

Image: courtesy of Rahemur Rahman by Daniele Fummo; Rahemur Rahman, AW19
V&A Museum