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The ‘must-have’ Little Black Dress exhibition

23 June 2008

New exhibition at the FTM opening 20th June charts the history of this powerful fashion icon

Trends come and go but for over 90 years the Little Black Dress has remained a powerful fashion icon - a constant on the catwalk, red carpet, and in many women’s wardrobes. The new Little Black Dress exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum explores the role of this celebrated garment in women’s lives and fashion history.   Against an amazing backdrop designed by award-winning film, stage and set designer Michael Howells, the exhibition charts the development of the little black dress from the 1920s to the present day. It explores the stories behind women’s favourite LBDs and highlights the creativity of contemporary British designers in reinventing the genre.  The display of over 60 garments draws on the personal archive of vintage dresses collected by fashion designer Andrew Fionda (of the label Pearce Fionda). Andrew’s collection is complimented by garments submitted by over 20 of the country’s leading designers and of course, dresses from women with an interesting story to tell. 

Supermodel Erin O’Connor, who will officially open the exhibition in June said "When I travel I always pack a little black dress. It's like a blank canvas which can be dressed up or down, whatever the occasion. I think when you buy your first LBD, it's a sure sign that you've grown-up."

Many women feel the same way and the dresses featured in the exhibition range from haute couture to the high street to the downright quirky with some of the highlights including:
• Joanna Lumley’s Jean Muir dress that ‘transformed my life utterly’
• Anouska Hempel’s dramatic puff-ball, most recently modelled by  Hilary Swank in Tatler
• Julien Macdonald’s flowing creation worn by Victoria Beckham in That Extra Half Inch
• Artist Grayson Perry’s Squirky by Vin & Omi black rubber dress
• Young designer and favourite of Anna Wintour, Christopher Kane's black leather mini dress
• Osman Yousefzada's modern interpretation on the LBD worn by Thandie Newton

Other designers include Amanda Wakeley, Barbara Hulanicki from Biba, Giles Deacon, Nicole Farhi, English Eccentrics, Betty Jackson, Pearce Fionda, and of course Zandra Rhodes - the original founder of the FTM.

We all might have an LBD in our wardrobe but do we know the story behind this chameleon of the fashion world? The exhibition takes us through the developments since its inception in 1926 when Coco Chanel showcased a simple black jersey dress in American Vogue, which she described as ‘the new uniform of modern women’. Vogue nicknamed the dress the ‘Chanel Ford’ predicting it would be as popular and accessible as Henry Ford’s Model T Car. From this point on, the concept of the Little Black Dress - versatile, sophisticated and progressive, was planted firmly in the public imagination.

However, this exhibition, in collaboration with The Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove, doesn’t stop at the historical perspective as the Fashion & Textile Museum has invited over twenty of Britain’s leading designers to show us their idea of the perfect Little Black Dress. From English Eccentric’s laser cut Snowflake Dress to the exaggerated shapes of Mario Schwab’s Stone Age Dress, the variety of black dresses on display highlights the unique creativity of our contemporary British fashion designers and classic design houses.   Andrew Fionda, curator of the exhibition for Brighton says ‘My whole fashion career seems to have been highlighted by the little black dress and I think this is testament to its longevity. It is ageless, can always be reinvented and there will always, through one’s life, be an occasion to revisit this fashion and style icon’.

‘Whilst curating the exhibition l was amazed at everybody’s unique interpretation of the LBD, to some it is long and dramatic, to others it’s short, sexy and sassy, whilst some think it’s cute and very simple. However, to everyone, it’s a fashion staple, a must have in everyone’s wardrobe and a lifetime investment that will never let the wearer down.’  The glittering associations of the LBD have resonated for most of the 20th century and will no doubt do so for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we can put this down to what Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor famously said in its praise, ‘When the Little Black Dress is right, there is nothing else to wear in its place’ - this exhibition reinforces the LBD’s place in the heart of every woman.
- Ends -

Notes to editors  

A media preview of the exhibition will take place at the FTM on Thursday 19th June from 9.30am to 12.00 noon.   Interview opportunities at media preview: British designer Zandra Rhodes, exhibition curator Dennis Nothdruft and co-curator / designer Andrew Fionda will be available for interviews by appointment between 10.00am   and 12.00 noon Thursday 19th June.   Photocall opportunity at exhibition opening: Supermodel Erin O'Connor is scheduled for a photocall at 6.30pm at the FTM on Thursday 19th June.  The exhibition runs from Friday 20th June until Monday 25th August 2008. Exhibition opening times are 11.00am-6.00pm Wednesday to Sunday. Last admissions 5.15pm  Ticket prices are £5 for adults, £3 for students and concessions, free entry for under 12s  For further information about the FTM and its activities visit www.ftmlondon.org  Entrance to the Café/Bar and Shop is free of charge. All are open daily with the exception of the shop which is open Wednesday – Sunday 11.00am-6.00pm. 

Newham College of Further Education is one of the largest further education colleges in Europe and owns and operates the FTM. It has a strong track record in running courses and providing business support in the fashion and jewellery sectors. Newham has been involved at the FTM previously, supporting the development of its learning centre.   As well as a dynamic exhibition programme the FTM is also home to a new Academy providing a much-needed hub for education and professional development within the fashion, textile and jewellery sectors. The Academy will be open to all who want to broaden their skills in the fashion industries, from those looking for full-time courses, short professional courses or something more tailored for businesses.  Little Black Dress is co-curated by the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and Andrew Fionda. It is funded by Brighton & Hove City Council and Renaissance South East.  

For further information, please contact: 
Lisa Murgatroyd - 07740 852 861 liseallen32@hotmail.com 
Rajet Gamhiouen – 020 8522 5713 Rajet.Gamhiouen@newham.ac.uk 


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