Skip to content

Global Fashion Capitals

Start Date 02 June 2015
End Date 14 November 2015
Venue The Museum at FIT
Location New York, USA
Curator Ariele Elia and Elizabeth Way

The globalization of fashion has given rise to new fashion cities that now annually host hundreds of fashion weeks around the world. Each city’s cultural identity and particular economic, political, and social circumstances combine to elevate its designers to international attention. Global Fashion Capitals explored the history of the established fashion capitals—Paris, New York, Milan, and London—and the emergence of 16 new fashion cities. 

The exhibition opened with a digital style map that geographically located the fashion capitals and showcased their latest runway and street style photographs. Global Fashion Capitals continued city-by-city, starting with Paris, the birthplace of haute couture, represented by designs from Charles Frederick Worth, Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior, and the emerging couturier, Bouchra Jarrar. 

The New York section began with a circa 1938 iridescent evening gown by Nettie Rosenstein and ended with Alexander Wang’s sporty spring/summer 2015 neon orange dress. New York also included styles by Claire McCardell, Halston, and Ralph Lauren. 

Milan claimed its place as Italy’s fashion capital during the 1970s. Brands such as Versace and Prada helped establish the city’s respected prêt-à-porter. Now, newer designers, such as Stella Jean, bring fresh perspectives to Milan. 

London captured international attention with youthquake fashions during the 1960s. Provocative designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen established London as a creative fashion hub during the decades since. 

When selecting which emerging fashion capitals to include in the exhibition, the curators considered a number of indicators to show that a city’s fashion scene is growing. All the featured cities are home to forward-thinking designers who have achieved domestic success and attracted international interest. They also hold fashion weeks attended by international press and fashion buyers. 

Several factors drive the development of a city’s fashion scene—politics, economics, and government support among them. For example, Johannesburg fashion blossomed during the post-apartheid era, led by designers such as Nkhensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherrie. Current events in Ukraine have ignited the creativity of designers such as Anton Belinskiy, who staged a photo shoot amid Kievs street protests. 

China’s economic growth over the last decade created consumer demand for international fashion, developing into support for successful domestic designers, such as Shanghai’s Masha Ma. Nigeria’s economy, the largest in Africa, supports Lagos’ developing fashion industry and the growing international reach of brands like Maki Oh and Lisa Folwaiyo. The governments of Copenhagen and Seoul actively fund and promote their fashion industries. 

The exhibition also examined fashions from:
St. Petersburg/Moscow
Mexico City
São Paolo

Global Fashion Capitals was organized by Ariele Elia, assistant curator of costume and textiles, and Elizabeth Way, curatorial assistant, The Museum at FIT. 

Installation images courtesy of MFIT.