The V&A’s Fashion collection features items from some of the most influential designers and fashion houses of the 20th and 21st centuries. Designs in the collections hail from across the globe, with a particular emphasis on British and European labels.
Born in the Basque region of Spain, Balenciaga was apprenticed to a tailor from the age of twelve. In 1914 he opened the House of Balenciaga in San Sebastian, where most of his clients were aristocrats. After the Spanish monarchy was deposed in the 1930s, Balenciaga moved to Paris. Here he became known for dramatic black coats and dresses which recalled Spanish fashions of the Elizabethan age.
London born and educated, dubbed 'enfant terrible' by the fashion press, Alexander McQueen became one of the youngest designers to achieve the title ‘British Designer of the Year', which he won four times between 1996 and 2003. In 2003 he was awarded a CBE and named 'International Designer of the Year' by the Council of Fashion Designers.
Mary Quant opened Bazaar, a boutique on the King's Road, in 1955 at a time when 'fashion wasn't designed for young people'. Quant was influenced by Chelsea beatniks and dance outfits she remembered from childhood. Famed for popularising, if not inventing, the mini skirt, her clothes were made up of simple shapes combined with strong colours. By 1963 her success led to the opening of a second branch of Bazaar in Knightsbridge. She later launched the Ginger Group, a lower priced line designed to appeal to an even wider clientele.
Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent (1936 - 2008) spent his childhood in Algeria. He was precociously talented, winning first prize for a cocktail dress in the 1953 International Wool Secretariat Contest at the age of only 17. While he was training as a cutter, Christian Dior hired him as an assistant.
Video: My V&A : Sir Paul Smith
British fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, shares his take on some intriguing pieces of glass, graphics and furniture from the V&A collection. Paul Smith's international fashion brand has come to define what British good taste means, here picking three items from the collections that reflect the essence of the Paul Smith. This film forms part of a series entitled ‘My V&A’.
Gianni Versace (1946–1997) is one of the most colourful and talented designers of the late 20th-century. Versace was born in Reggio Calabria in Southern Italy. His first independent collection was launched in Milan in 1978 and subsequently, aided by the talents of his brother Santo and sister Donatella, he forged the vastly successful Versace empire
Explore the world of Yohji Yamamoto, one of the most influential and enigmatic fashion designers of the last forty years. Yamamoto is a visionary designer who has made a vital contribution to fashion, challenging traditional norms of clothing with his avant-garde style. View a selection of works and learn about his custom-made textiles that featured in the 2011 exhibition, 'Yohji Yamamoto at the V&A'.
Spanning four centuries, the V&A’s Fashion collection is the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world. Key items in the collection include rare 17th-century gowns, 18th-century ‘mantua’ dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear and post-war couture. Plus a growing number of pieces from 21st-century designers.