18 Unmissable Fashion Exhibitions In 2021

by | Jan 25, 2021 | Fashion

Unmissable Fashion Exhibitions In 2021

@DuckieThot photographed by #TimWalker and styled by @Edward_Enninful, with hair by @1MalcolmEdwards, make-up by @SamBryantMakeup and set design by @Shona.Heath for the 2018 Pirelli Calendar, image courtesy of @VAMuseum
britishvogue: There’s something special about a leisurely wander around a museum on a Sunday afternoon, just one of the many simple pleasures culture buffs are missing as lockdown continues. The international calendar for 2021 is studded with what should have been highlights of last year, from #HelmutNewton’s centenary show to #ClaudiaSchiffer’s curatorial debut and the V&A’s #AliceInWonderland-inspired show. Read  here 18 fashion exhibitions you can’t miss in 2021 – and how you can experience them from home.














From Helmut Newton’s centenary show to Claudia Schiffer’s curatorial debut, these are the hottest museum tickets to book now and, if travel restrictions persist, many can be experienced remotely.

How prescient the theme of the last Met Costume Institute summer show now seems. About Time, a fashion exhibition imagining time as a loop, was held in suspended animation during a year in which time apparently stood still, contracted, expanded and rewound, which finally opened in October 2020 and will stay open until 7 February 2021.

This year, we might be prudent to look to the topsy-turvy world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, subject of the V&A’s next fantastical extravaganza. Opening dates of exhibitions look set to leap around as we wait for vaccines to roll out, and museums play catch-up after months of closure, so please keep referring back to their websites. The international calendar for 2021 is studded with what should have been highlights of last year, including Martin Margiela’s arty takeover of Paris’s Fondation Lafayette Anticipations, London’s The Design Museum’s Sneakers Unboxed and the centenary celebrations for Vogue Paris at the Palais Galliera. (All should now open this spring.)

After months stuck indoors, it’s time to engage in outdoor exercise — if only in the wardrobe of your imagination — with exhibitions on activewear, ’90s style and oceangoing activities. For a reminder of what it was like getting dressed up for a party (or even just to leave the house), there are dreamy fairytale photographs by Sarah Moon and Paolo Roversi, and high-maintenance, highly sexed glamour from Helmut Newton.

For fashion fantasists…

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

Starting with a trip down the rabbit hole and ending with a tumble through the looking glass, the V&A’s delayed Alice spectacular explores the origins and influence of Lewis Carroll’s books and their famous illustrations by John Tenniel. Exhibits include costumes and concept art from Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation, Tim Walker’s Alice-inspired Pirelli calendar photos, and wonderland fashion from Iris van Herpen and Viktor & Rolf.

V&A, London, UK, opens 27 March 2021

Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture autumn/winter 2016.


Image may contain: Clothing, Apparel, Footwear, Shoe, Human, Person, Sleeve, Female, Dress, and Fashion

Ruth E Carter: Afrofuturism In Costume Design

The Oscar-winning costume designer — responsible for styling era-defining movies from Do The Right Thing (1989) to Black Panther (2018) — is a stickler for research. Books, museums, historic textiles and artefacts all feed into a richly costumed vision that borders on worldbuilding. (The designer herself has compared her role to that of a sculptor.) Sixty costumes, sketches and ephemera from the past four decades are displayed in an installation created by Brandon Sadler, the artist responsible for the spectacular murals decorating Shuri’s lab in Black Panther.

SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, US, until 12 September 2021

Black is King.

© Courtesy of Disney

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For 20th-century time travellers…

Claudia Skoda: Dressed to Thrill

In 1975, knitwear designer Claudia Skoda and friends occupied a converted factory in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Dubbed ‘Fabrikneu’, it became a magnet for artists, musicians and filmmakers. In 1977, artist Martin Kippenberger took 1,000 photos of the Fabrikneu scene and installed them as a runway for Skoda’s bold and slinky knits. On David Bowie’s advice, she opened her first shop in New York in 1982, moving back to Berlin after reunification where she opened a store on the Ku’damm. This is a celebration of Skoda’s designs, the creatives who contributed to her vision, and the West Berlin underground scene of the ’70s and ’80s.

Kulturforum, Berlin, Germany, 11 February to 24 May 2021

Claudia Skoda: Dressed to Thrill.

© Ulrike Ottinger

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Simply brilliant: Artist Jewellers of the 1960s and 1970s

Psychedelia, the space race, new-age spirituality, the women’s movement and counter-cultural identities of all flavours. By the 1960s, the heavy bling of earlier decades looked distinctly unhip, out of step with the new mood of youthful rebellion. Jewellery had a role to play: part of the era’s exuberant self-expression and peacock style, for men and women. Expect futuristic forms, fantastic geodes and wearable sculpture.

Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Pforzheim, Germany, 27 March to 27 June 2021. Cincinnati Art Museum, US, 22 October 2021 to 6 February 2022

© Courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum,Kimberly-Klosterman-Sammlung, Photo Tony Wals

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Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture

The boutiques that made London swing in the ’60s were almost as celebrated as their clients — just think of Biba, or Granny Takes A Trip. This show dives into the wardrobes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull and Jimi Hendrix within the reconstructed interiors of Chelsea’s most way-out boutiques.

Fashion and Textile Museum, London, UK, 3 September 2021 to January 2022

The Fool designs inside The Beatles Apple Boutique, 1967.

© Karl Ferris.

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Fashion Photography From The 1990s — curated By Claudia Schiffer

The ’90s was the era of supermodel supremacy — Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Helena Christensen et al — so who better to guide us through the decade than Claudia Schiffer? Having turned 50 last year, the model and actor is taking a detour into the museum world, curating the work of photographers that helped turn her into a globally recognised figure, among them Ellen von Unwerth, Juergen Teller and Karl Lagerfeld. A personal take on the decade, her show includes photography and memorabilia from her archive and uses music and video to set the scene.

Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany, autumn

Claudia Schiffer.

© Ellen von Unwerth

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Reinvention and Restlessness: 1990s Fashion

The decade that brought us grunge, deconstruction, performance fabrics, wild spectacle on the runway, the rebirth of the haute couture houses and endless historic homage has already been the subject of a bunch of revivals. To those who lived through them, they may have seemed undistinguished after the excesses of the ’80s, but the ’90s brought us Tom Ford, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs, and saw the rise of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. This show looks at how these designers’ disruptive visions were interpreted through the work of photographers such as Corinne Day, Inez & Vinoodh and Steven Meisel. The book of the show comes out in March.

The Museum at FIT, New York, US, autumn

A Vivienne Westwood bodice from the AW90 ‘Portrait’ collection.

© The Museum at FIT

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For devotees of high glamour…

Paris to Hollywood: The Fashion and Influence of Véronique and Gregory Peck

Véronique Passani was a 20-year-old reporter for France Soir when she was sent to interview movie star Gregory Peck, in Europe filming Roman Holiday (1953). It was the start of a romance that lasted until Peck’s death in 2003. Bringing her Parisian chic to Hollywood, Véronique became a fashion influencer avant la lettre, wearing couture by Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent, and introducing the space-age style of André Courrèges to the US. “They made style look effortless,” her daughter Cecilia Peck has said, “I think their secret was that they were having fun.” Both show and catalogue feature family photos and couture sketches.

Denver Art Museum, Colorado, US, 14 March to 20 June 2021

Véronique and Gregory Peck.

© Bettmann

Image may contain: Gregory Peck, Human, Person, Tie, Accessories, Accessory, Clothing, Suit, Coat, Overcoat, and Apparel

Alaïa and Balenciaga: Sculptors of Shape

Over four decades, Azzedine Alaïa collected the work of fashion designers he revered. His passion was dresses from the ’30s and ’50s, and of the designers from that era, the one he cherished most was Cristóbal Balenciaga. Curated by Olivier Saillard, this exhibition places 120 creations by the two designers side by side, all of them from Alaïa’s own collection.

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa, Getaria, Spain, April 29 to autumn 2021

Alaïa and Balenciaga: Sculptors of Shape.

© Stephane Ait Ouarab

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Sarah Moon

Details of Sarah Moon’s biography tend to be as softly unfocused as her timeless photographs, but apparently the model-turned-photographer turns 80 this year and Fotografiska is staging a celebration. Whether shooting campaigns for Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake in the ’80s and ’90s, portraits of friends or views of Paris, Moon’s painterly images are infused with an unreal, dreamy tone, carrying the delectably sullied fuzz of found photographs. The exhibition will include works made for the photo books Circuss and L’Effraie, inspired by the stories of Hans Christian Andersen.

Fotografiska Stockholm, Sweden, 5 March to 30 May 2021

Details of Sarah Moon’s biography tend to be as softly unfocused as her timeless photographs.

© Sara Moon

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For avant garde experimentation…

Nicholas Daley: Return To Slygo

A celebration of family, music, knitwear and woven textiles, menswear designer Nicholas Daley takes over the gallery with banners, films, and bespoke carpeting to create a healing environment for London (hopefully) post lockdown. Moodboards will explore Daley’s Scottish-Jamaican roots and inspiration, while Joseph Dunn’s documentary will explore knitting techniques, and the skills passed down to the designer from his mum. Slygo? It’s Daley’s DJ name: IMan SLYGo. If you can’t make it to London, knitting patterns and Daley’s carnival-inspired playlist will be available online.

Now Gallery, London, UK, 9 February to 18 April 2021


Artist group CFGNY (Concept Foreign Garments New York), composed of Daniel Chew, Tin Nguyen, Ten Izu and Kirsten Kilponen — known for their redeployed bootleg garments and performative presentations featuring cardboard sculpture — gets an exhibition at the experimental project space Auto Italia. The topics under discussion? Fashion, identity, sexuality and notions of Asian identity. The show will feature sculpture, performance, a new capsule garment collection and an online commission.

Auto Italia, London, UK, April to June 2021

Auto Italia is the experimental project space by artist group CFGNY.


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Endless Garment

At art collector Michael Xufu Huang’s recently opened museum in Beijing, Endless Garment approaches fashion as an endless loop of production, promotion and consumption, which flows around the world, more often than not passing through China. Featuring photographers, labels, designers and artists from Asia and the diaspora — including Xander Zhou, Yat Pit, Carl Jan Cruz and Joyce NG — this promises to be a critical, conceptual take on one of the world’s oldest globalised industries.

X Museum, Beijing, China, 20 March 2021

Dress Code: Are You Playing Fashion?

Organised by The Kyoto Costume Institute, Dress Code looks at the way we read and deploy dress for social cues, and suggests fashion as a great game in which we can choose to play by the rules or invent our own. In the gallery, that translates into Hans Eijkelboom’s street photos documenting accidental style tribes; uniforms relating both to the world of work and global subcultures; and cartoonish extremes of fashion from the pannier skirts of an 18th-century robe à la française to Jeremy Scott’s paper doll dress for Moschino.

Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Germany, 26 March to 18 July 2021

For the body beautiful…

Oceanista — Fashion & The Sea

Get shipshape for a celebration of navy trims, frogging, nautical stripes, deck shoes, cruise chic and slickers. Ocean-going fashion covers a lot of ground (or water) from Jean Paul Gaultier’s sexy sailor boys and relaxed Riviera looks from Chanel to Iris van Herpen’s splash-tacular water dresses.

M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark, check website for dates

Oceanista — Fashion & The Sea.

© Nick Harvey

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Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich

Monokinis, thong underwear, micro-minis and pantsuits: Rudi Gernreich’s bodycon, dance-inspired designs were not for the fainthearted. Born to a Jewish family in Vienna in 1922, Gernreich’s family fled Austria following its annexation by Germany in 1938, settling in Los Angeles. He became a leading figure in the gay rights movement and came to fashion through his work in dance: his garments were designed for flexible movement, emphasising the shape of the body. The exhibition “underscores Gernreich’s rejection of conventional ideas of identity and his commitment to promoting gender fluidity, body positivity, and the equality and beauty of all people,” says fashion curator Jacquie Dorrance.

Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona, US, 27 April to 26 September 2021

Rudi Gernreich’s bodycon, dance-inspired designs are to be celebrated this spring.

Image may contain: Clothing, Sleeve, Apparel, Long Sleeve, Human, Person, Female, Sunglasses, Accessories, and Accessory

Helmut Newton

The Berlin-born photographer — known for his erotically charged images of women in states of suggestive undress — would have been 100 last October. This delayed celebration brings together 300 photographs including portraits and fashion editorials.

Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin, Germany, 3 June 2021 to 23 January 2022 before touring to Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy

Helmut Newton.

© Helmut Newton Estate

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A gold medal for the Fashion Museum Hasselt, which has two Olympians as its guest curators: sprinters Élodie Ouédraogo and Olivia Borlée, the one-time relay teammates who now run sportswear label 42|54. Going back to the earliest days of sporting garments, the exhibition looks at activewear’s gradual ascent into the arena of high fashion.

Fashion Museum Hasselt, Belgium, 6 June to 30 December 2021

Élodie Ouédraogo and Olivia Borlée.

© Ronald Stoop

Image may contain: Clothing, Apparel, Sleeve, Long Sleeve, Scarf, Human, Person, Female, Sweater, Coat, and Overcoat


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