Top image: Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2003. Courtesy of the Shaun Leane archive.
Looking to deconstruct the notion of the ‘lone creative genius’ that is often glamorised in the media, writer and curator Lou Stoppard’s latest exhibition, Fashion Together, explores those pairings that have inspired and defined each other’s careers.
“Fashion is an industry which relies on collaboration but ironically people are credited as these singular talents when actually those who can work in teams tend to produce the best work,” says Stoppard below.
Featuring pairings such as designer Rick Owens and wife Michèle Lamy, Gareth Pugh and Ruth Hogben, Nick Knight and Daphne and Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, Stoppard’s exhibition examines seven of the most iconic and renowned creative partnerships via never-before-seen ephemera such as sketches, handwritten notes and fashion editorials which will be displayed alongside garments, films and photographic prints.
Running at UAL’s Fashion Space Gallery, the exhibition coincides with the release of Stoppard’s book, Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration (on sale from 17th October) which features in-depth conversations with fashion’s most celebrated duos, including all those featured in the exhibition.
Violet Conroy: How did you first come to the concept for this exhibition?
Lou Stoppard: The exhibition corresponds with a book I’ve written of the same name, which comes out 17th October. The book’s concept arose because I felt that ‘collaboration’ had become a real buzzword in fashion, in part due to the many high street-designer collaborations. I thought about how working relationships in fashion hadn’t been properly analysed or surveyed. As editor-at-large of SHOWstudio, a lot of what we do focuses on the work that goes on behind the scenes towards a final design or photograph, so I’ve always had great interest in process. The exhibition gave me the chance to feature some really charming audio of the duos alongside great physical objects and films.
Violet: You mentioned that the complexity of working relationships in the fashion industry is under-analysed, why do you think this is?
Lou: I have absolutely no idea and was very surprised that no one had done this book or exhibition before. In fashion people tend to fetishise that lone genius creative figure, but people are now becoming more interested in the working process.
Violet: What do you think it is about fashion that encourages these working relationships?
Lou: I don’t know if they’re encouraged, I think they’re more pragmatic. The photography and design duos in particular talked about how they couldn’t imagine doing it alone. The boys behind Proenza Schouler spoke about how it takes an army to get everything done in fashion and Marc Jacobs said that anyone who pretends to do it alone is lying. Fashion is an industry which relies on collaboration but ironically people are credited as these singular talents when actually those who can work in teams tend to produce the best work. Some of Nick Knight’s images that I adore most have come about through his relationships, whether it’s working with Yohji Yamamoto or John Galliano. Similarly, photographer Helmut Newton worked closely with his wife June but he got all the credit regardless.
Nick Knight and Daphne Guinness, Visions Couture: Junya Watanabe, SHOWstudio 2011, digital film. Courtesy of SHOWstudio
Violet: What was the most surprising discovery about these working relationships?
Lou: One of the things that struck me is how varied all the different collaborations are, despite that sounding obvious. Whilst interviewing all the pairs I realised there isn’t some sort of magic solution, instead it’s just like a human relationship. In the same way that it’s difficult to describe why a relationship works, it’s also difficult with collaboration. There’s this magic ingredient that makes it work, or a synergy that either happens or doesn’t.
“The book’s concept arose because I felt that ‘collaboration’ had become a real buzzword in fashion, in part due to the many high street-designer collaborations.”
Violet: How was the process of setting up Fashion Together?
Lou: I designed the exhibition myself but we worked with a fabricator named Robin Sheperd. I like doing shows that don’t feel like typical exhibitions, I want to create something that is engaging and immersive and suits the topic and theme. I don’t have any interest in making exhibitions that feel lofty. Now that there are so many digital gallery opportunities, you’ve got to give people a reason to go to a physical space. Since I’ve worked so long in digital I feel like physical spaces offer different and diverse opportunities, so I wanted to go a bit nuts.
Violet: How did you go about the interview process for the book and exhibition?
Lou: There’s a real spread of interviews since they were carried out over a three year period. I wanted a lot of time with the pairs so most of the interviews were done in person, which meant I was travelling to different countries and going to people’s homes and studios – none of the interviews were done over email. There’s always that sad feeling when you finish a book and it goes to print, so it was really nice to be able to have this exhibition as another way of working with the pairs. I love interviewing people, it’s my favourite thing to do. The book and the exhibition, in essence, are all about conversation.
Fashion Together runs at Fashion Space Gallery between 8th September – 13th January 2018.
Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration will be available 24th October via Rizzoli USA.