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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: A general view during the exhibition The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, Barbican Art Gallery, 13 October 2016 - 5 February 2017, on October 12, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 12: A general view during the exhibition The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, Barbican Art Gallery, 13 October 2016 – 5 February 2017, on October 12, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

Diana Vreeland said that “Vulgarity is a very important ingredient in life…it’s got vitality.” The fashion exhibition that has all London talking is just that; “The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined.”
It has thigh-high boots Manolo made for Rihanna, it has Chanel sneakers from that Supermarket collection, it has the most over- the-top, wide mantuas of 18th century Versailles and those of John Galliano for Dior.

What is considered ‘vulgar’ – showing off, in bad taste – in the 21st century? Having a fashion exhibition in an art gallery, probably.

The exhibition opens with copies of classicism; so that’s the nymphs of Ancient Greece recreated by Karl for Chloe. Then there’s the ultimate extravagance in fashion in Galliano for Dior couture where he re-creates the deep glamour of Revolutionary France. The head of an elephant pokes out of the front of a Walter Van Beirendonck look from his naughty ‘Take a Ride’ collection. The plaid jacket above could be the classic chic of original Balenciaga, an arresting combination. There’s a Vivienne Westwood t-shirt sporting naked breasts, the ‘tits’ t-shirt. Not quite on a par with the court mantuas of the 18th century with their overskirts of two and a half metres, made in the most excessively luxurious fabrics that money could buy.

But then, as Mary Quant said in 1967: “People call things vulgar when they are new to them.” Let’s hope that’s true.

‘The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined’ is at London’s Barbican Art Gallery until 5th February.