The current exhibition at the MUCEM in Marseille challenges convention by bringing traditional costumes and Haute Couture models together in a unique dialogue. While one is rooted in permanence and the other subject to the fleeting nature of fashion, this exhibition offers a captivating exploration of history, geography, societies, identities, imaginations, and traditions. The curators of this event have curated an exceptional collection, featuring outfits rarely seen outside the archives of the National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, as well as iconic designs from renowned fashion designers spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries. Their aim is not only to showcase these garments but also to inspire reflection on clothing, its uses, its languages, costumes, trades, materials, fashion, inspirations, and artists.
These interwoven stories, transcending time and space, illustrate the connection between local identities and the world of Parisian fashion. They demonstrate how a Tyrolean headdress might have influenced a hat designed by Chanel, or how the vibrant patterns of a Romanian blouse can be found in a creation by Saint Laurent. There is a sense of familiarity between a Breton corset and a jacket by JP Gaultier. The latter pays homage to the sumptuousness, material richness, and audacity of folklore. Remarkable juxtapositions emerge, such as the modern “Cape de la Servante” in boiled wool by Franck Sorbier, presented alongside a 19th-century Berber shepherd’s burnous from the Moroccan Atlas, made of woven wool. By modernizing the traditional costume of Alsatian women and their black bows, Victor Weinsanto, himself from Alsace, creates imposing and elegant black headdresses as a tribute. Similar approaches can be seen in Pascal Jaouen’s remarkable embroidery of the Breton costume and Christian Lacroix’s beautiful Provençal outfits. Furthermore, Simon Porte Jacquemus has elevated the capeline of the Niçoises, presenting even more impressive versions in his recent collections. Countless other treasures await discovery—don’t miss out!
We extend our gratitude to Aurélie Samuel and Marie-Charlotte Calafat for their dedicated work in curating the collections and collaborating with the Couture houses, allowing us to witness these rare models and crafts from the past and present. We also express our appreciation to the MUCEM for hosting this remarkable and enriching exhibition, accompanied by a beautifully crafted catalog. Visit Marseille from July 12 to November 6, 2023, to experience it firsthand.