At THE FIFTH COLLECTION, we've always loved powerful women as well as women in power. So, when London's Design Museum opened its newest exhibition Women Fashion Power recently, I had to check it out. And I must say, the exhibition is truly inspiring.
Women Fashion Power examines how female fashion has changed through the years as a response or direct reaction to the changing roles of women in society. The exhibition thus showcases examples of how powerful women have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world.
Designed by the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, this exhibition brings together exclusive interviews, an immersive multimedia journey and unique historic pieces of clothing that spans 150 years of women's fashion. It is analysed through an immersive visual timeline that explores how female fashion has transformed from the restrictive boned corsets of the nineteenth century to the statement Louboutin heels of today.
Twenty of today's leading female figures were asked to contribute one of their own outfits for display and, in accompanying interviews, they elaborate on their personal style philosophy. Ranging from politicians to princesses, the 20 participants include Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, Serpetine Galleries' Julia Peyton-Jones, Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, the lead vocalist of Skunk Anansie nad Natalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter.
(left) Wallis Simpson in Elsa Schiaparelli
The designers who star in this exhibition are those who are catalysts for change and are, for the most part, women. For instance, there's Coco Chanel, who pioneered trousers in the early 20th century; Diane Von Furstenberg and her sexually liberated wrap dress in the 1970s; Vivienne Westwood punk and the challenging of conventional femininity; as well as Donna Karan the Seven Easy Pieces for time-pressed working women in the 1980s.
The iconic Elsa Schiaparelli also makes an appearance with a timeline display of her work. Schiaparelli always believed that clothes had to be architectural and that the body must never be forgotten - it must be be used as a frame is used in a building. One of the more powerful images shown in the exhibition is that of Wallis Simpson, the stylish American socialite for whom England's Edward VII abdicated his throne for.
Through it all, one takeaway from the exhibition is that despite how the shape of women in the public eye has shifted back-and-forth between being ultra-feminine and semi-masculine silhouettes, there is this sense that power comes through no matter the styles.
Truly, Women Fashion Power is an interesting exhibition not to be missed.