About the NAOMI: In Fashion exhibition

NAOMI: In Fashion explores the unequalled 40-year career of fashion model and cultural icon Naomi Campbell. After being scouted in Covent Garden aged just 15, Campbell quickly rose to prominence in the industry, and made history a few years later when, at 18, she became the first Black model to feature on the cover of Paris Vogue, in August 1988.

Produced in collaboration with Campbell and foregrounding her voice and perspective, NAOMI: In Fashion is the first exhibition to celebrate the skill and contribution of an individual model to the fashion industry. The exhibition draws upon Campbell's own extensive wardrobe of haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles from key moments in her career, along with loans from designer archives and objects from the V&A's collections. Woven throughout is Campbell's activism, having advocated for equity from an early age, joining the Black Girls Coalition in 1989 and fronting the 2007 'A Black Issue' of Vogue Italia, calling for diversity on the catwalk.

Naomi Campbell is at the V&A, photograph, by Marco Bahler, 2023, London, England. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Naomi Campbell's extraordinary career intersects with the best of high fashion. She is recognised worldwide as a supermodel, activist, philanthropist, and creative collaborator, making her one of the most prolific and influential figures in contemporary culture. We're delighted to be working with Naomi Campbell on this project and to celebrate her career with our audiences.


Sonnet Stanfill, Senior Curator of Fashion, V&A

Becoming Naomi

The exhibition opens with high-impact clips of Campbell on the catwalk, illustrating her legendary 'walk'. The first section, 'Becoming Naomi', explores Campbell’s childhood and grounds her later success in her early dance training. Born in 1970 in south-London, she aspired to a career on stage and performed in 1980s music videos for artists including Bob Marley and Culture Club. Her life changed when, aged 15, she was approached by model agent Beth Boldt while out shopping with schoolfriends. Two years later she would be on the front cover of Vogue and walking for acclaimed designers in London, Paris, Milan and New York.

Naomi Campbell as a young girl. © Martin Brading

Supermodel

Campbell entered the field of fashion modelling when it was on the cusp of change. By the early 1990s, the term supermodel – or model turned international celebrity – was widely used in direct reference to Campbell and a small group of peers. Fashion had become mass entertainment and Campbell was at the centre of this excitement, her talents being championed by leading designers such as John Galliano, Gianni Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent. She became known for her superlative presence on the catwalk while her work with leading photographers created some of the era's most memorable images. Simultaneously she moved beyond the world of fashion, performing in music videos, launching her own perfume and becoming a champion of diversity.

(Left to Right:) Dress, worn by Naomi Campbell, designed by VERSACE, Autumn/Winter 1991. © Courtesy VERSACE. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London; 'Roulé Comme Une Buick' ('Drive Like A Buick'), bustier, worn by Naomi Campbell, designed by Thierry Mugler, Autumn/Winter 1989. © Courtesy Mugler Archives. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Azzedine Alaïa

The next section focuses on Campbell's close personal and professional relationship with late Tunisian-born, Paris-based designer Azzedine Alaïa – who she met during her first days in Paris and would come to call 'Papa'. Famed for his figure-hugging designs, Alaïa saw Campbell's sculptural physique as 'a perfect body', which inspired much of this work. Together, the pair created runway magic and editorial gold.

Dress, worn by Naomi Campbell, designed by Azzedine Alaïa, Spring/Summer 1990. © Courtesy Azzedine Alaïa Foundation. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

New York

Campbell moved to New York aged 17, sharing an apartment with fellow model Christy Turlington before securing her own place on East 30th Street. Campbell threw herself into the city's buzzing fashion scene. Forging enduring friendships with designers and others in the industry from Marc Jacobs to Anna Sui, these relationships would stand the test of time.

The spotlight

Since the early 1990s, Campbell has been one of the most high-profile models in the world – and one of the most recognisable Black women – on our televisions and phones, in music videos and newspapers. 'The spotlight' section explores a highly publicised biographical moment when Campbell served a period of court-ordered community service. On display is the Dolce & Gabbana gown that Campbell wore on her final day of community service – a look she wore in response to the paparazzi capturing her arrival and departure every day throughout.

Exemplar

The next section looks at Naomi Campbell as an exemplar in the field, focussing on her early collaborations with fashion houses from Dolce & Gabbana and Vivienne Westwood to Jean Paul Gaultier. Formed when Campbell was a young woman, these connections evolved into decades-long collaborative friendships with designers valuing her ability to glamourise whatever she wears, and model the most difficult ensembles with apparent ease.

Platform shoes, designed by Vivienne Westwood, 1993, England. Museum no. T.225:1, 2-1993. © Courtesy Vivienne Westwood. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Alchemy

Curated by Edward Enninful OBE, a selection of photography in the exhibition showcases Campbell's unique alchemy with the camera. Featuring work from world-renowned photographers from Steven Meisel and Arthur Elgort to Patrick Demarchelier and David Bailey, Campbell has a deep respect for those she works with, recognising their artistic talent and vision, and working to achieve the image they have in mind.

As anyone who has worked with her knows, when Naomi arrives at a shoot, she is there to work.

Edward Enninful, OBE
Naomi Campbell. © Steven Meisel

Archetype

The final section recognises Campbell's work advocating for friends and her active support of emerging designers. With over 40 years' of experience working with the leading names in fashion, Campbell is an archetype whose skill and reputation as an exceptional model is indisputable.

See NAOMI: In Fashion from 22 June 2024 – 6 April 2025.

Header image: Dress worn by Naomi Campbell, designed by VERSACE, Autumn/Winter 1991. © Courtesy VERSACE. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London