Ten Looks, One Show: The Industry’s Top Stylists Honor the Albright Fashion Library-------
It’s been over ten years since Irene Albright first opened the doors to the Albright Fashion Library—the more than 15,000-dress-, 7,000 shoe-strong collection of contemporary couture, ready-to-wear, and accessories now housed in a massive 7,000-square-foot loft at 62 Cooper Square. “Irene was working with KCD and saw that people were running around chasing clothes, and she just decided to start buying [important pieces],” recalled the Library’s creative director, Patricia Black. “Eventually, people would come to her saying, ‘Oh, do you still have that sweater? Can I borrow it?’”
Today, after a decade functioning as a sort of dream closet for fashion insiders, the Library is feting its history, as well as the incredible individuals who have pulled from its continually evolving archive, with Albright Goes to School, an exhibition in partnership with the Fashion Institute of Technology and MAC Cosmetics that opens this evening at the Museum at FIT.
“I wanted to celebrate Irene, the Library, the stylists—the people who were working on the inside—the shakers and tastemakers,” said Black. “Without them, we wouldn’t have what we have in terms of this colossal space just packed from floor to ceiling with clothes.”
The show—a first look debuts here—features individual looks that ten stylists (June Ambrose, Paul Cavaco, Catherine George, Tom Broecker, Freddie Leiba, Lori Goldstein, Kathryn Neale, Mary Alice Stephenson, Kate Young, and Patti Wilson) created using iconic wares from the Library. A Tom Ford goat hair jacket layers over a Comme des Garçons tank in Goldstien’s look; Balmain is mixed with Givenchy and the artist’s own choker and face mask in Leiba’s; and Patti Wilson utilizes a Lanvin body harness to sex up an otherwise high glamour Yves Saint Laurent and J.W. Anderson combo.
There’s a rich history to the institution, and Black, Museum at FIT director and chief curator Valerie Steele, and set designer Stefan Beckman were tasked with expressing that through a tight narrative. “There are some incredible stylists who pulled these outfits, but they each have their own different story,” related Beckman, who described the installation as a “gritty fire escape urban idea.”
Steele added that the Museum’s interest in the exhibition stemmed, in part, from a desire to champion stylists. “People tend to think, Oh, designers make fashion. So it was important to be able to bring in stylists and show that they also have a really important role in putting looks together.”
The ten ensembles will be on display through March 31. The show marks the beginning of a greater collaboration between FIT and the Albright Fashion Library. “Irene is such an eclectic collector of everything from fashion to art to houses to people. So who knows what she’s going to start collecting next and where we’re going to take that,” suggested Black. “[But] I’m excited about the beginnings of seeing how we get to work and inspire the new generation of kids who dream of becoming the next designer, visual director, creative director, fashion editor, stylist, or costume designer. I’m hoping that we can lend a little bit of light to them in this moment.”