Paris, Capital of Fashion

There is a lot to learn in Valerie Steele’s mega exhibition Paris, Capital of Fashion at the Museum at FIT, where I visited this morning. Not that Paris has been considered the international “capital of fashion” since the days of the courts at Versailles, and not that it was the birthplace of couture and the first-ever fashion week. It is not a question that Paris has branded fashion like no other city.
What we can learn from this exquisite show? It traces that evolution over generations in the most provocative way and with the most breathtaking, experimented, extravagant examples. In the introductory gallery, a pair of identical classic Chanel suits in tweed, made in 1966, one an original couture and the other, licensed copy made by Ohrbach’s Department Store, demonstrates the stunning fact that Coco Chanel encouraged copies, that it was a way for her to thank the American people for forgiving her for becoming a Nazi intelligence operative during WWII.  

We learn that Paris has branded itself as a fashion city thanks to the support from the French government that dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries and continues today. That Louis XIV’s minister of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert famously said that fashion to France is like the gold mines to Peru and Spain.

There is a lot to learn in the exhibition ‘Paris, Capital of Fashion,’ which will be on view through January 4th.

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