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5 must-see fashion exhibitions in Europe this winter

Milan, Antwerp, London, Paris and Madrid host fashion & art encounters this season

5 must-see fashion exhibitions in Europe this winter Milan, Antwerp, London, Paris and Madrid host fashion & art encounters this season

The coming festive days, from the December 8 bridge to the following ones revolving around Christmas, are perfect for a true full immersion in the world of fashion and art. Five different locations, five major cities to explore and as many exhibitions to discover different nuances of fashion involving the relationship with the body, with color, with geographical origin and the emancipation of a continent, with painting and with celebrities. It starts with Milan and the project dedicated to Richard Avedon; it continues with Madrid and the link between the works of Picasso and Chanel; then with Antwerp and the interconnections between the body, avatars and avant-garde fashion. The last stops? Paris and London to learn more about Yves Saint Laurent's passion for the color gold and to delve into the work of African designers.

Here are the 5 must-see fashion exhibitions in Europe this fall/winter.


"Picasso/Chanel" - Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

"Chanel is to fashion what Picasso is to painting." Saying this, marking a parallel between two of the most revolutionary and influential artists of the 20th century, was Jean Cocteau who apparently introduced them in 1017. Starting with a similar assumption to that of the French poet and playwright, the new exhibition at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid reveals the elective affinities and mutual influences between the Spanish painter and Mademoiselle Coco, displaying paintings, drawings, clothing and other memorabilia. The exhibition is divided into four sections, spanning a decade, from 1915 to 1925. The first, The Chanel Style and Cubism highlights the similarities between the pictorial current and the Parisian brand's early creations, which reproduce on fabric some of Picasso's codes such as a predilection for black, white and beige, for stark geometries, austere textures and the use of modest materials. The second section, titled Olga Picasso, focuses on Picasso's portraits of his first wife, Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova, one of Chanel's friends and clients, alongside which are rare outfits by the designer. Later parts of the exhibition focus on their collaboration on the plays Antigone and Le Train Bleu. Antigone is an adaptation of Sophocles' tragedy in a modern key, with texts by Cocteau, designer Chanel costumes, and sets and masks by Picasso. The same trio of creators also works on Le Train Bleu, the title of the fourth section of the exhibition that refers to the ballet of the same name created by Diaghilev in 1924.

Title: "Picasso/Chanel"

When: through January 15, 2022

Where: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid


"Gold: Les Ors d'Yves Saint Laurent" - Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

On October 14, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris opened Gold: Les Ors d'Yves Saint Laurent, a monochromatic exhibition exploring the French designer's use of gold. The warm and joyful color, chosen to enhance feminine power, has always been a key hue in the couturier's collections, recalling the objects he collected with Pierre Bergé, creations inspired by poets of the sun such as Aragon or Cocteau, days in Marrakech and evenings in nightclubs with Betty Catroux. Elsa Janssen, director of the museum, and art historian Anna Klossowski (daughter of Loulou de la Falaise, model and muse of Monsieur Yves) collected 40 haute couture and ready-to-wear dresses, as well as jewelry, accessories, and designs, all of course declined in shades of gold. Prominent among the glittering models on display are the jeweled dress made for the fall-winter 1966 collection and photographed by David Bailey and the sequined ones worn by Zizi Jeanmaire or Catherine Deneuvethose sported by Catherine Deneuve, Sylvie Vartan and Zizi Jeanmaire.

Title: "Gold: Les Ors d'Yves Saint Laurent"

When: through May 14, 2023

Where: Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris


"Africa Fashion" - V&A South Kensington, London

With a vast collection of more than 250 objects, the exhibition is one of the must-sees of the year, a detailed journey into contemporary African style from the days of independence to the present. Creativity, ingenuity, fabulous prints and bright colors are just some of the traits that unite the continent's many stylistic realities, told through clothing, textiles, photographs, sketches, films and personal accounts. In the foreground remain the individual African voices and perspectives that have exploded since the years of African independence and liberation, between the mid-late 1950s and 1994, which triggered a radical political and social reordering across the continent, along with a Cultural Renaissance (which the digital world has accelerated) found not only in fashion, but also in music, visual arts and literature. Testifying to the global impact of contemporary African fashion are archival garments from its most celebrated African designers such as Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi, but also a nod to the work of contemporary creatives such as Imane Ayissi, IAMISIGO, Moshions, and Thebe Magugu and Sindiso Khumalo. 

Title: "Africa Fashion"

When: through April 20, 2023

Where: V&A South Kensington, London


"Mirror Mirror - Fashion & The Psyche" - Momu Antwerp e Museum Dr. Guislain Ghent

MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp and Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent have joined forces to analyze "the interconnections between fashion, psychology, self-image and identity." The exhibition is curated by Elisa De Wyngaert and puts the body center stage, analyzing from different perspectives in a dialogue between art installations and avant-garde fashion by Comme des Garçons, Simone Rocha, Walter Van Beirendonck and Viktor & Rolf. Divided into three sections, the exhibition touches on themes such as body dysmorphism, body dysmorphia, and the history of human copies, such as dolls, mannequins, cyborgs, and avatars. The first part focuses on how we see ourselves and how we observe others; the second part focuses on dolls with toys from the 14th century and clothes and pieces from Simone Rocha and Viktor & Rolf AW99 Russian Doll collection; while the third part enters the digital world to study the relationship between avatars and fashion. Opening on October 8, 2022, Mirror Mirror - Fashion & The Psyche will continue until February 26, 2023.

Title: "Mirror Mirror - Fashion & The Psyche"

When: through February 26, 2023

Where: MoMu, Antwerp, and Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent


"Richard Avedon: Relationships" - Palazzo Reale, Milan

Richard Avedon is one of the world's best known and most celebrated photographers. His cinematic portraits, which seemed to let the subject speak while revealing his inner self, have made the history of photography and are now being celebrated in a new exhibition in Milan. Rebecca Senf has gathered inside the Palazzo Reale more than one hundred shots from the Center For Creative Photography in Tucson and the Richard Avedon Foundation, creating an exhibition itinerary, divided into 10 sections, that includes both his work for fashion magazines and portraits to great personalities such as Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Beatles, Rudolf Nureyev, Bob Dylan, Malcolm X and Sophia Loren. The last part of the exhibition is dedicated to the collaboration between Richard Avedon and Gianni Versace, which began with the campaign for the spring/summer 1980 collection and ended with the spring/summer 1998 collection, the first signed by Donatella Versace.

Title: "Richard Avedon: Relationships"

When: through Jan. 29, 2023

Where: Palazzo Reale, Milan