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1997 Fashion Big Bang

Start Date 07 March 2023
End Date 16 July 2023
Venue Palais Galliera
Location Paris, France
Curator Alexandre Samson
A number of white mannequins stand on monochrome plinths. In the centre is a black runway with '1997' in purple LED lights.
Eight dresses from Commes des Garcons' 'Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body' collection, each distorting the silhouette with lumps and bumps. Three dresses are red; two are black; and three have a blue, white and turquoise gingham and striped pattern.
Four Alexander McQueen dresses are worn on black mannequins against a black and pillared background. Three mannequins have a feather or fur headpiece, with another wearing a voluminous ginger wig. The right-hand dress is a shaggy fur with stacked metal rings covering the neck. The second dress has a red tartan pattern covered with black lace. The third dress is black leather with an orange neckpiece with two bird heads resting over the shoulders. The fourth dress on the left is a puffed black minidress.

1997 was both a high point of 1990s fashion and the gateway to the new millennium. It brought a flurry of collections, shows, new appointments, openings and events that defined the fashion scene as we know it today. Such was its impact that 1997 can be thought of as the launching pad for 21st century fashion.

1997 was notable for a number of emblematic collections: bodies deformed by Comme des Garçons with the Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body collection, Martin Margiela’s conceptualised garments in the Stockman collection, and Raf Simons’s redefinition of the canons of male beauty in the Black Palms collection.

The magazine Vogue Paris defined the 1997 Spring-Summer haute couture season as the ‘Big Bang’ that Paris needed in order to regain its place as the international capital of fashion in an era of economic crisis and intense global competition. But there’s no denying that 1997 was a vintage year. It saw the arrival in haute couture of star designers from the 1980s, such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler, while the legendary French fashion houses were taken over by a new generation of British designers, with Alexander McQueen at Givenchy and John Galliano at Christian Dior.

The globalisation of fashion gathered pace, foreshadowing the 2000s and 2010s. Young, little-known artistic directors rose to prominence, either on their own or at the head of major fashion houses: Hedi Slimane, Stella McCartney, Nicolas Ghesquière, Olivier Theyskens – names that are still shaping fashion today.

A whole series of events marked the beginning of the new era: the concept store Colette opened and stayed at the epicentre of fashion for the next 20 years. But also, that same year, the world of fashion was shaken by the tragic death of Gianni Versace.

The chronological layout of the exhibition features over 50 silhouettes from the Palais Galliera collections, along with loans from museums and international collectors and fashion houses. And it also includes videos and some outstanding archive documents.

The exhibition 1997 Fashion Big Bang is an invitation to discover or to relive key events from this ‘explosive’ year in fashion history.