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Go behind the scenes of a fashion show at V&A Dundee

A selection of trinkets from the show
A selection of trinkets from the show Copyright Iain R Webb
Copyright Iain R Webb
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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A new exhibition at the Scottish museum dives into what makes a fashion show so special with an unusual focus - away from the clothes we see on the runway

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V&A Dundee is inviting visitors to a new exhibition to go behind the scenes and into the world of fashion shows in the pre-digital age.

‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’ is set to lay bare the creative process behind the scenes of a traditional catwalk event.

The Scottish museum’s aim is to peel back the glamourous façade of a catwalk show and dive deeper, giving an access-all-areas insight into everything behind what we see on the runway.

Iain R Webb
A look inside one of Webb’s sketchbooksIain R Webb

Curated by Iain R Webb, professor of fashion and design at Kingston School of Art, the show will feature sketches from the front row of fashion shows to invitations and memorabilia and much more.

Rather than presenting just the clothes being modelled, the focus will instead be on those creatives behind the scenes, including illustrators, graphic designers, set designers, photographers and hair stylists.

Webb has enjoyed a four decade long career in the fashion industry and many pieces on show are from his personal archive, amassed over the years. Expect to see his sketchbooks as well as show invitations and personal notes and memorabilia from designers such as Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Helmut Lang.

Iain R Webb
Smiles backstage - Helena Christensen and Vivienne Westwood behind the scenes at a showIain R Webb

Also on display will be rarely-seen photographs of models, designers and celebrities backstage at glitzy fashion shows and fashion week parties, featuring the likes of Björk, Linda Evangelista, Grace Jones and the late Alexander McQueen.

The V&A says the pieces dating from the 1980s to the early 2000s are particularly important in terms of the sociocultural context of the time in which they were created.

That period is relevant as it came before the democratising effects of the internet including social media and fashion bloggers. Pre the advent of the internet in its current, all-encompassing form, international fashion shows and collection previews were primarily private, invitation-only events staged behind closed doors.

Today, they tend to be shared immediately on social media by attendees or even steamed live by the design houses themselves.

Iain R Webb
A selection of Christian Lacroix’s fashion sketchesIain R Webb

Speaking ahead of the show’s launch, Webb explained how exciting and unusual the approach to the exhibition should be for visitors: “While rooted in one individual’s perspective and experiences, I hope the show will tell many different stories of the many different creative collaborators around the designer and transport the visitors beyond the catwalk’s edge, giving them an uncustomary view of the fashion show”.

The curator of the V&A Dundee, Francesca Bibby, agreed, saying, “This exhibition is an opportunity to shine a light on the networks of different creative disciplines within the fashion industry; the makers, artists, illustrators and journalists who play an integral role in interpreting and communicating a fashion designer’s concepts across different media”.

Iain R Webb
All the trappings of a fashion show attendeeIain R Webb

Bibby adds that the exhibition is “packed full of objects, photographs and illustrations; all of which we hope will spark visitors’ curiosity and provide a glimpse of the creativity and ingenuity present behind the scenes of a fashion show”.

‘The Fashion Show: Everything But The Clothes’ runs until January 2024.

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