A group of people standing in front of a wall with text 'The Fashion Show'.

V&A Dundee takes visitors behind the scenes of the pre-digital fashion show

The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes is now open

2 June 2023

IMAGES: Free-to-use images

V&A Dundee’s latest free-to-visit exhibition explores the fashion show beyond the catwalk as a world of total design, revealing the role of a broader community in translating the concepts behind a fashion collection, from graphic design and photography to make-up, illustration and set design.

The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes is curated by Iain R Webb, Professor of Fashion & Design at Kingston School of Art and respected fashion writer and editor, in collaboration with V&A Dundee.

The majority of objects featured come from Webb’s personal archive, amassed during his four-decade career in the fashion industry, including Webb's sketch books from the front row, as well as invitations, personal notes and memorabilia from designers such as Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent and many more, along with rarely seen photos of models, designers and celebrities backstage at the shows.

These demonstrate how the individual can be a collector, interpreter and anthropologist of a particular moment in time and the role of journalism in documenting, interpreting and communicating the concept and inspiration behind a fashion collection. Objects from other writers, collaborators, and designers in the fashion industry will also be included, highlighting the range of different design disciplines involved and variety of approaches to fashion documentation.

The exhibition takes visitors through Webb’s editorial process and the chronology of attending a fashion show using invitations, sketches from the front row, behind-the-scenes and after-show photography, plus associated ephemera. These items illuminate how a design story is built around each collection, as well as the way in which journalists interpret and edit this experience for readers. The objects and paraphernalia, which are all part of the fabric and culture of the fashion show, offer insight into the sociocultural context of the time in which they were created; in particular, the 1980s to the early 2000s, before the democratising effects of the internet, social media and fashion bloggers, when international fashion shows and collection previews were primarily private, invitation-only events staged behind closed doors. The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes deconstructs and demystifies the exclusive world of the international fashion scene by providing access to objects previously unavailable to and unseen by the public. It raises questions around the reasons we choose to collect and preserve certain items, encouraging us to consider the significance of documentation and interpretation within the world of design and how an assemblage of objects can contextualise a subject, in this case: the fashion show experience.

Iain R Webb says: ‘Whenever I returned from the international fashion weeks my suitcase was always heavier, laden with invitations that others would throw away and sketchbooks full of ideas. It’s now so exciting to see these objects, and others loaned by my front row friends and backstage collaborators included in this new exhibition at V&A Dundee. Each object tells its own design story and has so many memories. It’s a truly overwhelming moment.’ Francesca Bibby, Curator at V&A Dundee says: ‘Visitors will be able to see just how many different creative disciplines are at work within the fashion industry; the makers, artists, illustrators and journalists who play an integral role in interpreting and communicating a fashion designer’s concepts across different media. Iain has been so generous in sharing his archive, stories and process as a writer and editor with us, and this has translated into an exhibition packed full of hundreds of objects, photographs and illustrations. ‘There's such a variety of material and we hope everyone, not just fashion enthusiasts, will enjoy this glimpse of the creativity and ingenuity present behind the scenes of a fashion show.’

Sponsor Michelin Corporate Foundation Supported by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery

For media enquiries, please contact Jennie Patterson press@vandadundee.org