The Museum at FIT Hosts “Global Fashion Capitals”

New York, Paris, London, Milan—and Kiev? The Museum at FIT hosts “Global Fashion Capitals” in advance of Fashion Week – Now through November 14.

With New York Fashion Week just weeks away, it seems only fitting that the Museum at FIT should play host to a walkup to the main event. “Global Fashion Capitals,” on view until November 14, showcases couture and ready-to-wear from the four established capitals (Paris, New York, London and Milan), together with more than a dozen emerging capitals selected by the curators, including:  Antwerp, Madrid, Berlin, Moscow, Kiev, Stockholm and Copenhagen in Europe, and Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Mexico City, São Paulo, New Delhi and Lagos beyond it.  Tokyo, which became a fashion hub in the 1980s, has earned the sobriquet “the fifth fashion capital.”

As the exhibit makes amply clear, there is nary a month that goes by without a fashion week somewhere on this planet.  Step inside the gallery, and the curators provide a 12-month calendar with dates blocked out to prove it.  A literal mapping of the global phenomenon follows, with the names of cities flashing as images of urban fashionistas and style mavens on runways appear with designer and fashion photographer hashtags.

All due respect is paid to the major players, with Paris, a style capital since the 1700s, leading the way and dazzling with the House of Worth, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Balenciaga and “emerging couturier” Bouchra Jarrar.  New York entered the creative fray during World War II, when the Nazi occupation of Paris precluded copying the French capital’s designs and the city had to fashion its own.  Eleanor Lambert, a publicist, started Press Week in 1943, a forerunner of today’s New York Fashion Week.  After the war, Paris bounced back, but New York had stepped it up creatively and was moving away from mass manufacturing.

Museum of FIT, the three tomatoes

New York
(Left to right): Ralph Lauren, Sweater and Trousers, circa 1980; Donna Karan, Suit, 1984; Proenza Schouler, Dress, Spring 2005; Alexander Wang, Dress, Spring 2015. Photograph courtesy of The Museum at FIT.

It was Halston’s simple, well-constructed fashions that put the city’s garment district back on the map, globally speaking, in the 1970s.  He had created Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat for the 1961 inauguration and was one of five designers chosen for the 1973 “Battle of Versailles” fashion show.  His gorgeous, floor-length evening dress from 1976, on exhibit here, with one length of green silk chiffon enveloping a mannequin, speaks volumes.  Claire McCardell, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren are represented with ready-to-wear dresses and ensembles, but it is Alexander Wang’s Spring 2015 mesh-knit dress inspired by “sneaker culture” and sportswear that stands out from the pack, in form-fitting neon orange that seems ripe for a running track.

Museum of FIT, the three tomatoes

(Left to right): Mary Quant, Dress, 1963; Vivienne Westwood, Ensemble, Winter 1988; Dr. Martens, Boots, 2000; Manolo Blahnik, Shoes, 1998; John Galliano, Dress, 1990s; Alexander McQueen, Dress and Corset, Spring 2009; Gareth Pugh, Dress, Fall 2007; Christopher Kane, Dress, Fall 2014. Photograph courtesy of The Museum at FIT.

Bows to Milan and London follow, with the British capital’s display featuring Doc Martens work boots alongside Manolo Blahnik alligator pumps in lime—London grunge and glamour, rebelliousness and tradition, in one small case.  Alexander McQueen, a product of Savile Row and Central St. Martins, is quoted as saying that London is “…where my heart is and where I get inspiration.”  His silk poofy dress with brown leather corset and plunging neckline, presented as part of his Spring/Summer collection in 2009, epitomizes his edgy style.

But the fashion landscape has shifted in recent decades, with globalization spawning dozens of new fashion hubs vying for international attention—and buyers.  They are using fashion to re-brand and forge new cultural identities and bring business to their cities.  Enter São Paulo, Latin America’s fashion capital, whose designer Alexandre Herchcovitch found inspiration in Brazilian “street culture” and created one of the show’s signature works, a glass-beaded jumpsuit, for his Spring 2007 collection.

Museum of FIT, the three tomatoes

Mexico City and Sao Paulo (Left to right): Ricardo Seco, Ensemble, Dream collection, Spring/Summer 2015, Mexico City, The Museum at FIT; Alexandre Herchcovitch, Jumpsuit, Spring 2007, Sao Paulo, The Museum at FIT. Photograph by Val Castronovo.

Or Mexico City’s Ricardo Seco, whose 2015 Spring/Summer Dream collection melds modern sportswear with indigenous Huichol tribal craft (check out his ensemble, complete with embroidered dress-skirt and glass-beaded New Balance sneakers).  It’s fashion with a native twist, and the results are rocking the runways.

In a similar vein, the show features:

–Lagos’ rising star, Lisa Folawiyo, whose Spring 2015 dress pairs a cotton-blend Ankara (African print) fabric with brightly colored beading

–Korean brand Big Park, whose denim-satin dress from its Spring 2015 collection is emblazoned with a long-eared white bunny and was “inspired by [the designers’] childhood memories of the Korean countryside”

–New Delhi’s Manish Arora, known as “the John Galliano of India,” whose cotton jersey and silk ensemble from Spring 2006 incorporates imagery from the Bollywood cinema magazine, “Cine Blitz”; and

–Kiev’s politically attuned Anton Belinskiy, whose cotton and synthetic dress from his Fall 2015 collection boasts imagery from a Kiev graffiti artist.  In 2013, he orchestrated a photo shoot in the midst of demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital.

While the style map is growing, it seems unlikely that the Top Four will lose out to any of the newcomers any time soon.  New York, for one, is a tough act to follow.

“Global Fashion Capitals” at The Museum at FIT, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street.  Now through November 14.


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2 Responses

  1. KJF says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this article by Van Castronovo. Chock full of fashion facts and beautifully written.

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