Diana Vreeland once asked, "where would fashion be without literature?" If she were still alive, would she also ask "where would fashion be without museums?" Nowadays it is not unusual that museums host fashion related exhibits. Large and small, museums around the world, are using these events not only to educate but also as a way to attract visitors and increase revenue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert in London, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, to mention just a few, are part of this trend focusing in fashion.
"Fashion today is a worldwide cultural phenomenon that people have assimilated whether consciously or not into their daily lives", says Pamela Golbin, Chief Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. This museum is currently celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of its fashion collection with an exhibit titled "Fashion Forward, Three Centuries of Fashion (1715-2016)".
With the new heightened awareness of fashion, the general public is keen on learning more. They also have the tools to better understanding fashion exhibitions whereas they seem to be more apprehensive with straightforward art exhibitions.
More than 80,000 visitors have already visited the Parisian exhibit since it opened in the spring. Des Arts Décoratifs is responding to the public's strongly expressed desire to at last be shown an all-embracing panorama of fashion history.
Fashion Forward's scope is ambitious, covering chronologically three centuries of fashion, from 1715 to extremely contemporary pieces, including current 2016 collections. The most recognized and acclaimed designers throughout the ages are represented, creating intergenerational dialogues. Charles-Frederick Worth, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior, Courrèges, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and many more may be seen.
The exhibit brings together not only men's, women's and children's wear but also masterpieces from the Decorative Arts collections. More than 350 pieces and objects on display were pulled strictly from the Museum archives that house the French National Collections of Costume and Textile. The display is quite spectacular, taking over the totality of the museum's grande nave. But is fashion really art or is it something different? Ms. Golbin explains,
Today it is challenging to define art as the boundaries are constantly pushed. In fashion there are just as many nuances. Is it art? For some, fashion is considered art, while for others it is defined more as a craft. One thing is certain: fashion is an incredibly creative field that is also tied to a powerful and important industry.
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is one of the most iconic Parisian museums, it is a private non for profit institution with a collection of approximately 400,000 works. Fashion Forward continues until August 14th, lesartsdecoratifs.fr
Images courtesy of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs