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Fashion’s Nights (And Days) At The Museum

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When we set out to tell the story of 2011 by the numbers, one loomed especially large: 661,509, the record-breaking number of visitors who lined up, often for hours at a time, to see the Costume Institute’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (left) at the Met.

But it wasn’t just a banner year for the Met and the late, great McQueen; designers and museums forged a strong bond this year, one that looks likely to continue well into the next. Museums across the globe invited designers into their halls and the results have made for some of the best exhibitions in memory.

During Couture week, Hussein Chalayan opened a retrospective at Paris’ Musée des Arts Decoratifs, where next year, Marc Jacobs and his work for Louis Vuitton will take up residence. The City of Light also played host to Ralph Lauren and his collection of automobiles (it also now boasts an enormous new RL store and restaurant, one of the town’s new favorite spots for burgers). And Florence is the new home of the Museo Gucci, opened during Milan’s Spring 2012 week with all due fanfare, and a Blondie performance to boot.

In America, socials flocked to San Francisco for the opening of Balenciaga and Spain (which also traveled to New York) and to Dallas for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, which debuted earlier this year at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts. Just this month, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte opened RODARTE: Fra Angelico, a show of the dresses their created for their June presentation at Pitti, at L.A.’s LACMA.

Farther afield, Dior went to Russia, where house jewelry designer Camille Micelli sent us this postcard, for Inspiration Dior, attended, naturally, by a lavish party. And the Netherlands continues to be a slightly off-the-radar destination for fashion’s cultural tourists. A retrospective of the work of Azzedine Alaïa is now on view in Gronningen, outside Amsterdam, and the capital’s contemporary-photo museum, FOAM, which hosted the likes of Jefferson Hack for a panel on What’s Next, which followed a retrospective of work by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin—one which eventually became the germ of their new career-spanning anthology, Pretty Much Everything.

Here in New York, the more traditional homes of fashion, like FIT’s Fashion Museum, were busy, too. The museum recently opened the first part of The Great Designers, including Armani, Dior, Givenchy, and McQueen, and plans to open part two in March. Chief curator and museum director Valerie Steele also worked with clotheshorse and collector Daphne Guinness on an exhibition of her own holdings—which, it turns out, Guinness keeps organized via computer database.

Next year, all eyes will be on Miuccia Prada for the next Costume Institute exhibition, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada on Fashion. But before then, there’s a Louboutin retrospective in London to look forward to, on the heels of the shoemaker’s victory-lap 20th anniversary year. And WWD reports today that several fashion labels are taking a renewed interest in their own histories, too. Balmain is ramping up its archival holdings, and Chloé recently brought on an in-house archivist, in anticipation of a retrospective planned for its 60th anniversary next year.

Photo: Courtesy of the Costume Insitute

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Dept. of Culture