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12 Leading Fashion Exhibitions to Visit in 2018

By Vivian Hendriksz

18 Dec 2017


London - The start of 2018 is a few weeks away - signaling the start of a new fashion calendar. As the industry's leading fashion houses, designers and brands prepare to share their vision for the upcoming seasons, many chose to look at the rich history of fashion for inspiration. And what better way to appreciate the key events, trends and movements which shaped the course of fashion than at a museum exhibition? Ahead of the start of a new year, FashionUnited shares its list of the twelve leading global fashion exhibitions set to open in 2018.

Olivier Theyskens - "She Walks in Beauty"

Where: Mode Museum, Antwerpen
When: 10th October 2017 to 15th April 2018

One of the most fascinating Belgian designers, Olivier Theyskens, is the center of this exhibition at MoMu in Antwerpen. The exposition, entitled "She Walks in Beauty" aims to take visitors on a journey following the designer's creative evolution over the past twenty years. Focusing on his craftsmanship and the changing feelings of his work through a multitude of silhouettes imbued with the couture spirit, the exhibition includes his early designs, showcasing his dark, romantic side to the new vision of couture he established at Rochas as well as the launch and relaunch of his own brand.

In addition to showcasing some of his most iconic designs, the exhibition also includes literary works which form a counterpoint to his visual world, photographs, films, and sketches which show his creative process. “I work from a form of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful and pure than a woman who looks good. Besides this a collection should be relevant: logical and beautiful," said Theyskens on his work to FashionUnited. Read more on Olivier Theyskens work in FashionUnited's interview with the designer here.

Guo Pei - "Couture Beyond"

Where: SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Savannah, Georgia
When: 27th October 2017 to 4th March 2018

Guo Pei - "Couture Beyond" is the premiere US solo exhibition of the Chinese national designer, who was invited to join the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Taking place at SCAD Museum of Fashion + Film, the exhibition presents more than 30 of the designer's most dramatic and grandest gowns from the last decade, in addition to showcasing a selection of her prêt-à-porter dresses and jackets.

The exposition, which includes complete looks from head to toe, aims to explore Pei's creations which blend contemporary high fashion with ancient traditional dressing. By invoking history and Chinese mythology through intricate craftsmanship, embroidery, and addition to detail, the designer has managed to become China's most renowned couturière for the past twenty years. Displayed prominently in the exposition is the imperial yellow cape worn by Rihanna to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala in 2015 — a seminal moment which cemented the designer's name within the leading ranks of the international fashion industry. Read more on Guo Pei here.

Gianni Versace - Retrospective

Where: Kronprinzenpalais, Berlin
When: 30th January to 14th April 2018

Gianni Versace held his first fashion show in 1978, the Lippstadt, Germany. In 1994 he hosted his first exhibition in Berlin, three years before he was murdered at his home in Miami, Florida. Now, two decades after his murder, the city has rallied together to commemorate the fashion designers life and work in this retrospective.

The curated retrospective in Berlin is set to be the largest exhibition of Gianni Versace life's work. The retrospective is set to include items from private collectors around the globe as well as close relatives, including many famous pieces worn by celebrities such as Madonna, Elton John, Prince as well as models such as Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer. A reproduction of Gianni Versace's bedroom from his Miami house has been remade as part of the exposition which honours the late designers unique and extroverted style, which disrupted the fashion industry. Read more on Donatella Versace tribute to her late brother here.

"Royal Women"

Where: The Fashion Museum, Bath
When: 3rd February to 28th April 2018

Designs worn by successive generations of women in the Royal Family is the main focus of a new exhibition set to open at the Fashion Museum of Bath. Entitled "Royal Women", the exposition is arranged in a 'family tree' layout, looking at the clothes worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret.

The upcoming exhibition is set to explore the sartorial lives of the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the Royal family, looking at each women's personal style and how the role they held in the Rmonarchy affected this. The exhibition is set to include exquisite items of dress from the Fashion Museum collection, as well as a significant loan from the Royal Collection, loaned from Her Majesty The Queen. Highlights in the exhibition include the wedding dress of Alexandra, Princess of Wales, a dress and cape made by Hartnell worn by Queen Mary to the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, and a grey silk satin ball gown worn by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Read more on the exhibition of royal fashion here.

Martin Margiela - Retrospective

Where: Palais Galliera, Paris
When: 3rd March to 15th July 2018

Marking the first retrospective in Paris dedicated to Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela, this exhibition traces his career from 1989 up to 2009. This retrospective, held at the Musee de la Mode in Paris, follows the designer's career in the fashion industry, starting with his debut spring-summer collection in 1989, up to his spring-summer collection in 2009, underlining his conceptual approach to design.

The exposition, which will feature more than 100 different designs, highlights his unique way of constructing and deconstructing garments. Curated by Alexandre Samson, the retrospective is set to include items from his "Oversize Collection," "Barbie Collection" as well as his "Artisanal Collection" and "Replica" series based on vintage clothes gathered from around the world. The retrospective is set to bring together items from the label's signature pieces, in addition to archive examples of the numerous influences of the designer's work.

"Fashioned from Nature"

Where: The Victoria & Albert, London

When: 21st April 2018 to 27th January 2019

The V&A is set to host the first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day. Entitled "Fashioned from Nature", the unique exposition will showcase fashionable garments alongside natural history specimens, innovative new fabrics and dying process in order to encourage viewers to think more about how and where their clothes are made.

It aims to explore how fashion’s processes and constant demand for raw materials damage the environment and will feature campaigners and protest groups which have effectively highlighted this issue such as Fashion Revolution and Vivienne Westwood. The exhibition will showcase contemporary designers of "desirable, creative and sustainable popular fashion" to examine how fashionable dress recurringly draws on the beauty and power of nature for inspiration. Highlights are set to include a camouflage suit from Richard James, an upcycling outfit made from leather off-cuts and surplus yarn from Katie Jones as well as a dress made from Vegea, a leather alternative made using grape waste from the wine industry. Read more on the upcoming exhibition here.

"Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination"

Where: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
When: 10th May to 8th October 2018

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute's Spring 2018 exhibition aims to study the dialogue between fashion and religious artworks from the Met's collection. Named "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination", the exhibition will examine the ongoing relationship between creativity and religious imagination by studying the fashion industry's ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.

A selection of papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy in the Vatican is set to travel to the United States to serve as the cornerstone of the exhibition. They will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries. In addition, approximately 150 ensembles, primarily womenswear from the early 20th century to the present day will be on display in the medieval galleries and The Met Cloisters alongside religious artworks from the Met collection. Together the exposition provides an interpretative context for the fashion industry's engagement with Catholicism. Read more on the upcoming exhibition here.

Azzedine Alaïa - "The Couturier"

Where: The Design Museum, London

When: 10th May to 7th October 2018

The Design Museum in London is set to open a major exhibition focusing on the life work of legendary fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa. Despite the designer's untimely passing in November 2017, the exhibition will launch as the museum had been working closely alongside of the late Alaïa to develop it.

Planned by Alaïa himself, the exhibition explores his career and his creative process, as the designer shared his passion and energy for fashion. The late designer, who is known for his mastery of cut, fit, tailoring, of innovative forms and materials, created his garments by draping and sculpting directly on the human frame. A notorious perfectionist who cut all his own patterns, Alaïa was known to work on a single garment for years before sharing it with the world. The exhibition will showcase more than 60 examples of Alaïa's work from the past thirty-five years, which were personally selected by Azzedine Alaïa himself and guest curator Mark Wilson (Chief Curator of the Groninger Museum, NL). Read more on the retrospective here.

Orla Kiely - "A life in Pattern"

Where: The Fashion and Textile Museum, London
When: 25th May to 23rd September

Orla Kiely, one the most recognizable designers from the UK, is the focus of a new exhibition set to open at the Fashion and Textile Museum of London. Entitled "Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern", the retrospective is set to focus on her stylized graphic patterns, which are both innovative and influential.

Featuring over 150 patterns and products, as well as collaborations with photographers, film directors, and architects, the exhibition focuses the role of ornament and colour in consumer's everyday life. Key items in the exhibition are set to include the original paper sketches for the trademark ‘Stem’ graphic as well as prototypes of Kiely's early signature bags. With unique access to the company archives, the exhibition offers a privileged insight into the designer’s world – how she works, what has inspired her, and why her facility with pattern has produced designs that have resonated around the world.

Frida Kahlo's Wardrobe

Where: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
When: 16th June 2018 to 4th November 2018

The V&A in London is set to showcase a collection of clothing and personal artifacts which once belonged to iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It marks the first time in 50 years since the artist's passing that this collection is exhibited outside of Mexico.

Kahlo, who is widely recognized as one of the most innovative and influential painters of the 20th century, is seen by many as a style icon. Her eclectic taste and love for colour, print and jewelry have inspired numerous designers and artists work over the years. "This ground-breaking exhibition will explore the development of Kahlo’s style as an amalgam of traditional Mexican garments, fashion from Europe and beyond, and demonstrate how her wardrobe was expressive of the complex relationship between her Mexican and Western heritage," said the V&A in a statement.

Haute Dentelle - Designer Lace

Where: Museum of Fashion and Lace, Calais
When: 9th June 2018 to 6th January 2019

The Museum of Fashion and Lace in Calais is set to open a new exhibition dedicated to hand-made and mechanical lace. Entitled "Haute Dentelle" the exhibition offers visitors a unique view into the contemporary use of lace woven by fashion designers. Curated by Sylvie Marot, the exposition offers a unique dialogue between lace houses and fashion houses, highlighting the exchanges between the two creative propositions.

First inspired by and then later liberated from hand-made lace, mechanical laces have been pairing tradition with innovation for the past 200 years. 60 key pieces from thirteen fashion houses, such as Chanel, Christian Dior and Iris van Herpen will be displayed in the exhibition. Read more on the upcoming exhibition here.

"Dior from Paris to the World"

Where: Denver Art Museum, Colorado
When: 18th November 2018 to 3rd March 2019

The Denver Art Museum in Colorado is set to host the first major US retrospective of French luxury fashion house Christian Dior. The exhibition, "Dior: From Paris to the World", will highlight 70 years of the maison's history, focusing on iconic designs from Christian Dior himself through to Dior's current artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Curated by Florence Müller, the museum's Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion, a selection of more than 150 couture dresses, as well as accessories, costume jewelry, photographs, drawings, runway videos and other material from Dior's archive will outline the history of the iconic haute couture fashion house. In addition to showcasing the design and history of the Dior, the exhibition also aims to highlight the international effect the brand has had across the globe. Items from the Dior Héritage Collection, selections from which have been on display in Paris but largely unseen in North America, will also be included in the exhibition. Read more on Dior's largest ever retrospective, 'Christian Dior, Dream Couturier' at , the Musée Les Arts Décoratifs.

See our interactive story map here:

Photo credits:
Homepage: Peter Lindbergh Press Preview at the Kunsthal, © Simon Trel Photography, FashionUnited
1: Olivier Theyskens via Mode Museum
2: Guo Pei, courtesy of Met
3: Versace SS18, via Versace official Facebook page
4: Courtesy of Fashion Museum Bath
5: Martin Margiela SS08, © Françoise Cochennec / Galliera / Roger-Viollet
6: Katie Jones, courtesy of V&A
7: Image 1 © Metropolitan Museum of Art - Image 2 courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
8: © Peter Lindbergh, courtesy of the Design Museum
9: Courtesy of Orla Kiely
10: By Saed de los Santos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
11: Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, courtesy of The Museum of Lace and Fashion
12: Alain Jocard, AFP