Discover the challenging and utterly compelling question of how fashion revels in, exploits and ultimately overturns the prevailing limits of taste
How do we define ‘vulgar’? Zandra Rhodes, Walter van Beirendonck, Christian Lacroix and Stephen Jones introduce what the vulgar means to them.
Look familiar? Christian Lacroix and Hussein Chalayan talk about taking inspiration from some unlikely sources including shrines and false nails to create their beautiful works of fashion.
In 1983, Yves Saint Laurent was the first living designer to have a major exhibition dedicated to his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Perhaps the most iconic piece in that exhibition was his Mondrian dress made almost twenty years earlier, which, due to its translation of the original Mondrian canvas, fuelled the debate around the place of fashion in the museum, and came to embody the cries against it. The exhibition, as all exhibitions of fashion, was seen to be ‘advertising’ a commercial concern. The dress, with its own legacy of copies, still prompts a debate about fashion’s originality and value, both inside the museum and outside of it.
What do you think of when you hear the word 'vulgar'? Hussein Chalayan, Manolo Blahnik and Stephen Jones discuss how the definition of vulgar relates to the concepts of taste.
‘So preposterous and fantastic are the disguises of the human form which modern fashion has exhibited, that her votaries when brought together in her public haunts, have been found scarcely able to refrain from gazing with an eye of ridicule and contempt for one another. And while individually priding themselves on their elegance and taste, they have very commonly appeared in the eye of an indifferent spectator, to be running a race for the acquisition of deformity.’ From The Young Woman’s Companion (c.1841)
Christian Lacroix, Stephen Jones and Walter van Beirendonck explore how fashion itself has influenced and inspired the vulgar.
To buy or not to buy… Manolo Blahnik, Christian Lacroix and Hussein Chalayan discusses the vulgarity of buying, longing and greed.
Too much on show? Walter van Beirendonck, Hussein Chalayan and Stephen Jones explore how their clothes play with how people see or interpret garments and objects on the body.
How might clothes exaggerate a body? By making it fake and transposing the chosen body part onto the dress, what happens to it? Vivienne Westwood’s painted exposed breasts have the shock of Punk defiance. The even more daring topless bathing costume from 1964—shown for the first time in Fashion: An Anthology by Cecil Beaton at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1971—was, we read in the museum notes, displayed pinned to an exhibition board, thereby denying it a body.
Can fashion give you ideas above your station? From crowns and royal dresses to objects themselves, Zandra Rhodes, Hussein Chalayan and Stephen Jones explain how ambition influences their work.
Classification is considered essential to museum collections and their project of accumulating knowledge. The pieces collected here question classification, in terms of time, place and order. The designs allude to former, more glorious historic codes of dress and to social classes above those of the wearer (a commoner wearing a crown for example, or wearing insignia that they are not entitled to, or they are unable to decipher). The dresses suggest through their precious gold patina a value beyond the commercial. They also, by virtue of being held in museum collections, aspire to a different kind of cultural status. Fashion is still an aspiring category within the museum.
Could vulgarity be the new good taste…? Stephen Jones and Zandra Rhodes share their thoughts on how the vulgar must balance that wonderful line between what is good and bad taste.
What is vulgar behaviour…? Stephen Jones and Hussein Chalayan discuss attention grabbing vulgarity from fashion to behaviour.
Does a designer have to be original all the time? Zandra Rhodes and Walter van Beirendonck talk about designing on the cutting edge.
Who decides the rules of fashion? What happens if we break them? Stephen Jones, Manolo Blahnik and Walter van Beirendonck share their insights on how the vulgar can offer opportunity for great creativity and success.
The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined took place in the Barbican Art Gallery from 13 October 2016 - 5 February 2017
The exhibition went on to tour to Winterpalais, Vienna from 3 March to 25 June 2017