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Eleanors' Art Preview: 'Fashion V Sport' at the V&A

One would be forgiven for thinking there is a bit of a ‘trend’ in the pristine air of the world’s revered art institutions. Of course we all remember the V&A’s The Golden Age of Couture exhibition in the latter part of 2007, but it is 2008 that really seems to be the year for fashion in galleries and museums. Currently two of the world’s most distinguished institutions, London’s Barbican and New York’s Metropolitan, are housing exhibitions devoted to fashion. Barbican’s The House of Viktor & Rolf has taken the Barbican Gallery in a new direction, being the first UK exhibition devoted solely to the Dutch duo. Meanwhile, the Met’s Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy brought with it the kind of celebrity and fashion fanfare we’re used to seeing at the Oscars.

Now the V&A is joining in the festivities with a new exhibition opening on August 5, Fashion V Sport, curated by Ligaya Salazar. It seems, however, that this time the V&A is going decidedly more low-key. The exhibition focuses predominantly on the relationship between the fashion and sport industries and their wares. Collaborations between designers and sports brands, such as that of Stella McCartney and Adidas, are highlighted and Salazar has also explored the concept of sports stars becoming the face of a fashion label, such as David Beckham for Armani. Fashion designers who use fabrics traditionally associated with sportswear, such as Bernard Wilhelm, are also featured. Essentially, it is about the way the two industries are becoming increasingly interlinked and are having a distinct effect on one another, be it aesthetically or economically.

Importantly, the focus of Fashion V Sport is 70% menswear and 30% womenswear, something unusual for this type of exhibition. Salazar says that she wanted to do something more with men’s fashion, which has been underrepresented, and have an exhibition for the sorts of clothes we wear in day-to-day life. She wants to “unglamourise fashion for the public,” and I guess she’s onto something.

Exhibitions such as those mentioned above are incredibly flashy, spectacular affairs; perhaps it’s nice for people to see something a bit closer to what they see on the street, at the gym or in the lounge-room? Certainly this would fit with Salazar’s hint that fashion exhibitions are “populist” and tend to draw the crowds. Interestingly, the exhibition coincides nicely with the Olympics, which somehow endow on us a wholesome, sporty, enthusiastic outlook – the perfect mood for such an exhibition.

With these things in mind, it will be interesting to see if sportswear and sports-influenced fashion has the pulling power of couture or high-fashion, with all its spectacle and glamour. Either way, it seems this is a museum trend that is sure to last more than a few seasons.

Fashion V Sport at the V&A, runs from 5 Aug – 4 Jan.