'Body Beautiful' exhibition in Edinburgh to explore diversity in the fashion industry

Curator Georgina Ripley said the exhibition would reflect the 'sustained' attention on the fashion industry in recent years.
Curator Georgina Ripley said the exhibition would reflect the 'sustained' attention on the fashion industry in recent years.
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Edinburgh is to play host to the first major exhibition exploring diversity in the fashion world.


Issues around age, size, gender, sexuality, race and disability will all be tackled at the National Museum of Scotland next year.

Indian designer Ashish Gupta will be among the fashion creators showcased in the National Museum exhibition.

Indian designer Ashish Gupta will be among the fashion creators showcased in the National Museum exhibition.

Its five-month show - is billed as "a celebration of creativity and an uncompromising and important statement about the world today."

It is expected to highlight the global industry’s most groundbreaking designers, models, stylists, photographers and editors.

The exhibition, Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk, will recall milestone magazine covers and landmark catwalk events, while exploring the growing impact of fashion bloggers and social media influencers on the industry.

Pam Hogg, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Rick Owens, Walter Van Beirendonck and Charles Jeffrey are among the designers expected to be featured in the exhibition.

Others will include Teatum Jones, who has created work inspired by Paralympian Natasha Baker, and Antonio Urzi, who has worked with wheelchair users.

The exhibition - which will feature original garments, photography, film footage, magazine covers and recorded interviews with leading industry figures - will explore how different religions and cultures are increasingly being reflected in catwalk shows, and the growing emergence of “plus-size models” in the industry.

Due to run from May-October, it is being staged two years after the National Museum unveiled its first dedicated fashion and style gallery.

The idea for a show exploring the breadth and extent of change in the fashion world has emerged from talks with the Diversity Network, an Edinburgh College of Art-backed campaign which challenges “unachievable and unhealthy body ideals” in the industry.

Georgina Ripley, senior curator in modern and contemporary fashion, said the exhibition was also partly inspired by a “new generation of fashion creators” who have been questioning long-standing industry limits on beauty, culture and identity.

She added: “One of the key messages of the exhibition is about the importance of the industry becoming more diverse from the inside out in order to create authentically inclusive imagery, both on the catwalk and beyond it, in both advertising and advertorial.

“The attention on the industry has been far more sustained than previously.

“There are unprecedented platforms to engage with the fashion industry now through social media. Brands can’t turn a blind eye anymore. They are starting to be held accountable.

“The consumer does have more power. People are really demanding to see their faces, bodies and communities represented on catwalks. The industry is also really changing a lot in terms of who goes to shows.

"Previously models were clothes hangars. Now they are real influencers and have their own platforms, and that's down to social media.

"There has also been a real cultural shift in the industry towards realism. There is a lot of street casting and casting of non-models going on.

“A lot of the changes on the catwalk are gradual and some of them are cyclical. But there have been a lot of interesting things happening in the industry recently in terms of diversity - it really feels that now is the time to respond to them."