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The Museum at FIT’s New Exhibit Tracks the Rise of Global Fashion

Look no further than marieprom.co.uk’s own fashion show index to see that global fashion weeks are on the rise. From Kiev to Seoul to São Paulo, we’ve been covering the latest from around the world—and let us say it is no small feat to take in and synthesize style movements that span continents, cultures, and drastically different consumer bases. But The Museum at FIT’s new exhibit, Global Fashion Capitals, aims to do just that. With 80 items arranged in the 27th Street gallery, curators Ariele Elia and Elizabeth Way provide a short tour of what’s happening in international fashion now, and how it’s grown since the early 20th century.



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Kicking off the exhibition are historical roundups of fashion in its four major cities: New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Fashion aficionados will delight in seeing the Claire McCardells next to the Alexander Wangs, the Balenciagas beside Bouchra Jarrars, and being able to visualize the stylistic threads that run through each city’s history. As it’s laid out in the exhibit, New York takes sportswear to the masses, Paris hones tailoring to an art, Milan fuses prints and patterns, and London morphs the surreal with the street. So if fashion’s capitals have those areas covered, what do the other cities have to offer? Experimentation.


While a major fashion week is where a young designer goes to really make it—a process that still happens today, as curator Elia noted—the smaller 19 cities profiled, including Sydney, Tokyo, Antwerp, Stockholm, Istanbul, Lagos, and Mexico City, give young talents the chance to grow on their home turf and on their own terms. “Today, for the first time, designers are able to show in their own home cities,” adding that it not only gives the designers a financial advantage in some cases, but also brings industry awareness to new areas. “When you’re looking at fashion, you have to look at Lagos, you have to look at Shanghai, you have to look at Seoul. It’s interesting that a lot of these cities that were stereotyped about only producing fast fashion are actually producing very high-end fashion. Shanghai is a wonderful example of that,” Elia explained, motioning to the high-quality pieces by Uma Wang and Masha Ma beside her. Visitors to the exhibit will see firsthand that fashion’s new capitals aren’t just regurgitating the hits from its main cities, either, but rather bringing a new voice onto the international scene that melds tradition with technology. In Berlin, that means a fetishistic red dress from Marina Hoermanseder that ties the city’s subcultures to its runways; in Mexico City, designer Ricardo Seco uses indigenous techniques on modern silhouettes.


After roaming through the galleries, it’s easy to feel hopeful about the state of international fashion, but as a calendar on the exhibition’s wall displays, these global fashion weeks are almost logistically impossible to cover due to scheduling conflicts. In that sense, New York, London, Milan, and Paris will always have an advantage. Elia poses a new solution to that problem: “There’s no possible way that you can send a true fashion journalist to all of them, and because of that I think you’re going to start seeing new ways to debut a fashion show. It’s not going to be a traditional fashion-show format—maybe you’re going to do a cool fashion video or something else on social media.” All-digital fashion weeks? Now that’s an idea we can get behind.


Global Fashion Capitals is on view at The Museum at FIT from June 2 through November 14.

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