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Naomi Campbell: A Life in Fashion at the V&A

naomi campbell
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A new exhibition at the V&A explores the life and iconic fashion moments of the legendary Londoner Naomi Campbell.

Early Life and Rise to Fame

Born in 1970 in south London, Naomi Campbell initially aspired to a career on stage, performing in music videos for artists like Bob Marley and Culture Club in the 1980s. Her life took a turn when, at the age of 15, she was approached by model agent Beth Boldt while out shopping with school friends. Just two years later, she graced the cover of Vogue and walked for renowned designers in London, Paris, Milan, and New York. Her meteoric rise was fueled by hard work, training, and a love for dance.

Supermodel Era

By the early 1990s, the term ‘Supermodel,’ referring to models turned international celebrities, was widely associated with Naomi and a small group of her peers. Fashion had become mass entertainment, and Naomi, still in her teens, was at the center of this excitement. Leading designers championed her talents, and she became known for her superlative ‘walk’ while her work with leading photographers created some of the era’s most memorable images. Simultaneously, she ventured beyond the fashion world, appearing in music videos, launching her own perfume, and becoming a champion of diversity.

Iconic Moments and Collaborations

The exhibition highlights include an Andy Warhol-print dress from Gianni Versace’s Spring/Summer 1991 show and a dramatic 1989 Thierry Mugler car-inspired corset made from plastic, metal, and acrylic. Naomi unintentionally created fashion history in 1993 when she famously fell on the runway while wearing Vivienne Westwood’s staggeringly high blue platforms, which were quickly acquired by the V&A.

Throughout her four-decade career, Naomi has been a trailblazer. She is celebrated for her ability to ‘walk’ the catwalk and her collaborations with major fashion houses, publications, and renowned photographers. Her cultural leadership, activism, and championing of emerging creatives transcend the traditional role of a fashion model.

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Exhibition Highlights

Produced in collaboration with Naomi and foregrounding her voice and perspective, “NAOMI: In Fashion” is the first exhibition of its kind. It showcases around 100 looks and accessories from her extensive wardrobe of haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles, chronicling her 40 years in the industry. Visitors will encounter designs by Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaïa, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Kenneth Ize, Torishéju Dumi, Valentino, Virgil Abloh, Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent, and many others.

The exhibition, curated by Edward Enninful OBE, also features striking fashion photography by renowned photographers like Campbell Addy, Nick Knight, Peter Lindbergh, and Steven Meisel.

Social Impact and Mentorship

The exhibition recognizes Naomi’s mentors, including prominent figures like Nelson Mandela, who inspired her to use her platform for social change. Naomi has advocated for equity from an early age, joining the Black Girls Coalition in 1989 and fronting the 2007 ‘black issue’ of Vogue Italia. Along with Bethann Hardison and Iman, she has campaigned for The Diversity Coalition since 2013 to champion diversity on the catwalk. The exhibition also spotlights her ongoing active support of emerging creatives through events like Arise Fashion Week and her global initiative EMERGE, founded in 2022.

Exhibition Details

NAOMI: In Fashion Gallery 40, V&A South Kensington
22 June 2024 – 6 April 2025
vam.ac.uk

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