Forget fashion shops: how designers embraced art exhibitions

According to Nina Due, head of exhibitions at the Design Museum, where the 2014 Christian Louboutin show was the museum’s most visited exhibition (with Hussein Chalayan and Paul Smith close runners-up), the appeal is because “the exclusivity of these brands means they are not accessible to people on the street”. An exhibition opens up their world in a very democratic way, with recreations of designers’ creative spaces, sketches, and an explanation of the processes used. But there is also a rise in a new breed of what might be described as vanity exhibitions, where the brands can market themselves through Instagram and other social media. Fashion houses are no longer waiting for the honour of being invited to be the subject of an exhibition. They are bypassing the grand cultural institutions and doing it for themselves. “There is an influx of brands putting together shows about themselves and partnering with cultural organisations,” says Due. “The context is everything. We are the gatekeepers of the content.”

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