London is packed with exhibitions at all times, and increasingly their focus is falling on fashion. (which we love!)
If all the options are giving you decision paralysis, here are our thoughts on the city-wide exhibitions currently open.
'The Missing Thread, Untold Stories of Black British Fashion' at Somerset House
Open: Now until January 7th 2024.
This was a beautiful exhibition!
Somerset house is an amazing place in and of itself, with its cafe, it's fountains and it's architecture. This exhibition is curated vividly from the entrance through till the end, shining a spotlight on a really important part of British fashion that often is left in the shadows.
We saw handmade garments, iconic photos and videos and the design of the space was amazing with everything from stacked TVs and stereos, to an entrance hall made of measuring tapes - the focus was on skill, craftsmanship and style and that definitely came through in the curation of the exhibition itself.
It's quite a small one, perfect to pop into before another activity or a lunch date - and there's actually another exhibition currently on at Somerset House well worth a visit whilst you're there, called Black Venus which brings together over 40 works by 18 Black women and non-binary artists to explore the othering, fetishisation and reclamation of narratives around Black femininity.
'Gucci Cosmos' at Strand 108
Ticketed: £0 - £18
Open: Now until December 31st 2023.
If you need something for the gram, and you love luxury fashion this is the exhibition for you. Strand 180 is a huge space and the exhibition really made the most of it.
From the moment you enter there are suited Gucci brand ambassadors telling you the tale of Guccio Gucci, emplaning the reasoning and referencing of the impressive exhibition design and layout and making it all feel very on brand as a luxury experience.
It was clearly designed to be perfect for photos & reposting, meaning it is extremely beautiful with loads of immersive videos and projections to enjoy. It is however a little lighter on the history side we didn't particularly learn anything new about the brand.
By the time we got to the end we realised that it was a brand experience piece - more so than an exhibition, with the final room being a video moodboard of Guccis next, yet-to-be-released collection.
'REBEL: 30 Years of London Fashion' at The Design Museum
Ticketed: £13.50 - £20
Open: Now until February 11th 2024.
We adore the design museum anyway, but this exhibition was wonderful.
It's entered around the recipients of the BFC's NewGEN grants (grants given to upcoming British designers) so is a great platform on more recent, younger designers. (So actually lots of our peers and people we know which was very cool!)
We got insights into the work of these designers, their inspirations, their processes their new sustainable practices... one of the most exciting parts were some tracked down (Very rare and special) pieces from Alexander McQueens second ever collection 'Taxi Driver', since the show was partially funded by the Sarabande Foundation, a charity set up by Lee Alexander McQueen to help young creatives.
There were also things that will be particularly exciting to anyone who studies fashion or designs themselves: sketchbook pages, annotated line up photos, etc. which gave a really amazing insight into the minds and the processes of designers in their own words.
Again, the design museum is a great spot with permanent exhibitions and another paid one currently open about skateboards! They also have one of the best museum gift shops in London if you like nice books and beautifully designed bits and bobs.
'Fashion City: How Jewish Londoners Shaped Global Fashion' at Museum of London Docklands.
Ticketed: £8 - £13.50
Open: Now until April 24th 2024.
This exhibition was beautiful, and carried a distinct weight in light of the antisemitic rhetoric that has risen out of the crisis in Gaza. If you want to head somewhere that maybe isn't as glossy and instagram-ready as some others but carries real weight, information and inspiration then this is the one for you!
The exhibition is constructed as if you have wandered onto a 1920s street, with different sections in different adorable false shops.
It's an amazing mixture of garments, tools and old photos of recognisable London streets that any Londoners will adore seeing. Getting to hear the stories of Jewish tailors, designers, business owners and entrepreneurs were so amazing, and whilst some were deeply personal tales some were actually stories that revealed the Jewish roots of so many brands and scenes that we know today: Carnaby Street stores, Moss Bros, Angels Costumiers... there's a whole hidden history to our city that we loved discovering.
Also another amazing gift shop here - we bought a bunch of books!
Divas at the V&A
Ticketed: £13 -£22
Open: Now until April 7th 2024
Divas at the V&A is a classic V&A fashion production. Beautifully curated, taking you all the way through from Opera divas to silver screen sirens and the modern day divas that we all know and love.
As always the V&A pulled really iconic items to display, and wove a beautiful narrative that celebrated powerful and talented women, drew a timeline of women's rights and touched on the inherent queerness of 'The Diva'.
It's a good one for the whole family, and had an amazing audio guide/soundtrack that made it feel very immersive. Perfect if you care about music, film, fashion, feminism or pop culture - it's got that mass appeal!
Chanel at the V&A
Ticketed: Currently sold out!
Open: Now until February 25th 2024.
This is probably the 'blockbuster' exhibition of the lot, although personally it didn't capture my imagination in the same way as the other exhibitions listed here. I think it's because the more immersive, imaginative curation of some of the other exhibitions feels more engaging to me.
However for this exhibition that kind curation would be all wrong. The curators here really stuck to Chanels tastes and style rules, with minimal settings, black and white, and plenty of space to let the garments speak for themselves.
There were clever little references such as a mirrored staircase like Coco Chanel own apartment, absolutely tons of garments to look at and some amazing old photos too.
I did love that it told us about Gabrielle Coco Chanel early life and rise, not just her biggest hits, and she was a huge impact on fashion design, on commerce and on womens style so for anyone interested in fashion history it is a must-see.
I will say that it was pretty crowded, which meant having to queue, and having to wait to get to read information panels or get closer looks at displays.The exhibition is currently sold out until the end of it's run, however you can get in for free and at any time you want with a V&A membership, so consider buying one, borrowing one, or hopping in with someone who has one that includes a guest!
What Else is On?
We've covered here (in brief summary) the exhibitions that we have visited, but we know it's not all encompassing. (we also know it's limited to London - sorry! Thats where we live!)
But guess what - if there's an exhibition that you've just seen or want to see, we just opened our blog up to contributions so drop us an email to email@example.com if there's something that you want to review.
From the top of our heads other fashion-related exhibitions on in London that we haven't had a chance to get to yet are:
- 'Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and Fashion' Not in London, but instead in Lewes on the South Coast, this exhibition focuses on the writers & artists of the Bloomsbury Group and features designer items like Dior, Burberry and Fendi, alongside never-before-seen Bloomsbury portraits and personal items. (Including Virginia Woolf’s handbag!) Whilst we haven't seen this I have spoken to one of the curators and it sounds like it's really beautiful.
- 'The Cult of Beauty' back in London this free major exhibition has just opened at the Wellcome Collection. We haven't seen this, but it includes over 200 items exploring beauty standards and practices across time and place. We will be visiting, it wounds like a fascinating show!