March 29, 2022
A New London Exhibition Explores the Intersections of Fashion and Masculinity
Last month, one of the most hotly anticipated exhibitions in the U.K. opened at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear, developed in partnership with Gucci, celebrates “the artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance” through various media, including a bronze Auguste Rodin sculpture, the Renaissance Portrait of Prince Alessandro Farnese, and iconic fashion campaigns, as well as film and performance.
The Victoria & Albert Museum tapped local architect and designer Jayden Ali of JA Projects to design the exhibition, keeping in mind the goal of “challenging the idea of historical masculinity as portrayed within British institutions,” Ali explains. In the first gallery, he notes, “you’re presented with all of these cisgender white male bodies [represented] in the objects, while five-meter-high drapes are printed with deconstructed black male bodies—fragments of limbs, torsos, and thighs. It’s a pretty incredible thing.”
While many of the objects and outfits on view represent “conventional” masculine attire, the exhibition also points to the fluidity of dress and gender expression, whether through Harris Reed’s Fluid Romanticism collection or a photograph of nonbinary musician Sam Smith donning pearls.
Ali notes that while the earth tones of the first gallery reference the origins of man and “the revelation of the body,” the cool blue curtains and generous presence of glass in the final third represent industrialization, the Anthropocene, and “where fashion meets the city.” Here, Ali hopes to remind viewers of “the incredible amount of energy it takes to produce glass, but also the carbon-hungry existence that underpins [urban life] and the fabrication of garments.”
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