Fashion in Motion: Models at work

By Pamela Lee

A growing collaboration between art, fashion and performance seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent. It’s in the media, in the fashion shows of London Fashion week, in shop windows and is increasingly evident in our museums.

The relationship between art and fashion is easily appreciated through beautiful fashion imagery and the aesthetic perfection of haute couture clothing. If fashion is not art it is certainly a form of art, one need only look at the intrinsic detailing and creative inspiration behind the work of conceptual designers such as Huessein Chalayan to agree. But performance is another ‘art form’ that has been forging links with fashion. Dramatic performances within catwalk shows are often the climax of the line presentation. Fashion shows produced for designers such as Alexander McQueen hold little separation from dramatic theater productions.

The V&A in recent years has been utilizing these links with the art and performance worlds in their take on exhibiting fashion. Fashion in Motion is a series of live fashion events presented against the unique backdrop of the V&A. Featuring some of the greatest designers and influencers of our time, Fashion in Motion brings the excitement and spectacle of the high fashion catwalk to a wide audience by combining performance and fashion while surrounded by art.

These events have been running every few months for the last couple of years and are still going strong. The tickets are free and open to the public but are hard to come by as they are snapped up within hours of being released. But I was lucky enough to get my hands on tickets for the most recent event last week. The event was ‘Models at Work’ – a performance created by Paris based director, curator and performer Olivier Saillard.

The performance was far beyond the standard fashion show I had expected it to be. Working with five famous French models Sailliard investigated ‘the gestures and poses of the fashion model as they have evolved and changed through the history of fashion.’ The models’ outfits ranged only between black body suits, white tunics and black sheaths. With such simple outfits it was still the most captivating catwalk show I’ve seen.

The models used the simplicity of the clothes to highlight the dramatic gestures and fluid motions required for fashion modeling. They used they used their bodies and the tunics to create a never-ending array of fabulous silhouettes. This was not a fashion show about clothes; it was about beauty, performance and perfection. The unforgiving simplicity of the clothing highlighted the skill and control involved in catwalk modeling and if ever there was a notion that modeling was in anyway talentless it was successfully done away with.

The design of the clothes, performance and white lighting was all the more adequate in the beautiful setting of the V&A’s Raphael Gallery. The grandeur of the room and magnificence of the painting hung there felt respected and could be properly appreciated through the candid performance.

It was a beautiful and innovative way to see a concept exhibited in the museum and a perfect fusion of art, performance and fashion. Another wonderful thing about the Fashion in Motion events is the feeling that being in the audience you are part of a small club who have the honour of witnessing these one off events in such a magical setting.

Fashion in Motion is presented every few months each time with a new designer or group of designers involved. Previous shows have involved Alexander McQueen, Stephan Jones as well as Central St. Martins Fashion Graduates. It is a wonderful and once of experience. So if you like fashion, art, performance or just a good show then make sure to keep you eye on the V&A Website for their next announcement.