July 19, 2024

Apparel Creations Workshop

Crafting Fashion Trends

Naomi Campbell has a continued influence on fashion and culture, as a new exhibition in London’s V&A showcases

4 min read

One has to hand it to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London for attempting to create, engage and inspire culture in the present tense, and not just the past. Case in point is a new exhibition, ‘NAOMI In Fashion’, that opened last week and is on until April 2025. It’s a one of a kind exploration of the world’s first Black supermodel, her creative collaborations, and the cultural impact she single-handedly caused.

The exhibition, sponsored by clothing label Boss, is a detailed timeline that narrates the story of the icon. Tracing her four decades in the fashion industry, the exhibition begins with a section titled, ‘Becoming Naomi.’ This chapter sheds light into the model’s childhood and early career, and how she was approached at the young age of 15 by model agent Beth Boldt to be introduced in the fashion industry. A completely alien world to her, Naomi is quoted in the section talking about how she was apprehensive until she found her footing. She was evidently a disruptor and a facilitator in the modelling industry. A part of the exhibition is a short video, which highlights some of the trailblazers of the time.

Another part of the exhibition, titled ‘Dressing Room’, has been recreated to look like a room of the iconic Claridge’s hotel in London. This was a home away from home for the model in the 1990s, and outfits displayed here are part of her personal collection. The exhibition in its entirety features more than 100 outfits which were worn by Naomi at various points of her career. Loaned from her own collection and the archives of luxury fashion houses, these gorgeous works of art provide the visitor the chance to see a cornucopia of beautiful pieces the supermodel wore that created fashion history when they were made. The exhibition also includes editorial and fashion campaign coverage of Campbell. This ranges from 1988, when she made history by becoming the first Black model to be on the cover of the French ‘Vogue’ magazine.

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To be able to showcase these many iconic outfits under one roof is perhaps something only the V&A could have successfully managed. Viewing these pieces beautifully displayed and luckily remembered and documented, is also testimony to the success of Naomi Campbell as a great model. She has nurtured her relationships with the world’s leading fashion houses. A screen has some of these celebrities share their experiences with Naomi. These include model Kate Moss, boxer Anthony Joshua, writer Derek Blasberg.

Her close personal and professional relationship with the ‘King of Cling’, Azzedine Alaïa, has a section of its own. A large part of Naomi’s archive includes creations from Maison Alaïa as the duo created magic on the runway. The pieces displayed at the exhibition are a testimony to this. What I also love about the exhibition is the manner in which each outfit displayed has the material and fabric used for the piece of clothing mentioned. Along with the brief narrative on the piece, this information sheds light on the innovation of design and textile through the years. It is a reflection of society and the way it has progressed and changed over the years.

Displayed outfits include a custom hand-painted Dolce & Gabbana gown, which was created for the model 30 years after she worked for the label, as well as the outfit Campbell wore for the Prada advertising campaign in 1994. She became the first Black model to star in the label’s campaign. This was a historic moment and the outfit, a black skirt and gilet with zips is now an integral part of history. Displayed at the exhibition and lent graciously by Prada. Several such pieces, works of art, had me captivated and in complete admiration.

Classic timeless outfits that have been draped beautifully, a glamourous exhibition design, which is not overpowering and the voice of the model in the background, are the perfect ingredients for a successful show. This is a celebration of not only timeless fashion but the models who wear and carry the weight of these outfits.

With the awareness to archive today, fashion icons and luxury houses have the opportunity to meticulously document and preserve their work and contributions to the industry. These important chapters of history are what culture is built and inspired from.

I do look forward to the day we bring together decades of fashion and costume archives and put together an exhibition on one of India’s many icons since we are so heavily influenced by the film industry and its hold on the fashion business. Moreover, with our textile history older than the foundation of countries, with great models, creative fashion and costume designers and cult classic films which have inspired men and women’s dressing in India, how have we managed to not create a meeting point to look and behold this history?

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