Zaha Hadid’s Prada cape

Fashion has finally come out of the closet in a fantastic new exhibition at the Design Museum. 

Women Fashion Power includes interviews and outfits donated by 26
high-flying business women arrived at via a ‘corridor of power’
containing paintings of historical figures, such as, Joan of Arc and
Boudicca, as well as photographs and quotes from those who didn’t take
part, like Hillary Clinton
and Angela Merkel. Contributors include Natalie Massanet, architect Zaha
Hadid (who designed the exhibition), Human Rights lawyer and director
of Liberty Shami Chakrabati and broadcaster Kirsty Wark.

Camilla Batmanghelidjh the founder of the children’s charity Kids Company loaned the multi-coloured dress created by Magbule Mulla (above). Next to it, is one of my favourite outfits (the Georges Rech black blazer and pants and stripy silk scarf), belonging to Anne Hidalgo the current Mayor of Paris and first woman to hold office in the French capital, who also opened the exhibition. C’est chic, non?

Photo: Elle

From the Suffragettes to
Hamnett’s Protest and Survive, the exhibition offers highlights
from 150 years of the women’s movement, alongside key fashion moments.
And yes, a lot of this stuff
we’ve seen before, but Women Fashion Power is presented in a way that
feels quite fresh and
celebratory. I had chance to have a quick chat with co-curator Donna Loveday about the exhibition,
‘For a long time, dress in the workplace was thought of
as frivolous but now we have more choice over what we wear to work and
we feel freer to express ourselves through our clothes. Women USE fashion in their professional working lives. I think this is incredibly
empowering and sends out a really positive message.’


Archive Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking


Archive Vivienne Westwood bondage suit

Influential business women discuss how they
feel about fashion and how fashion makes them feel. The 31-year-old chartered
mechanical engineer Morwenna Wilson chose a Carven map print jacket and
explained, ‘Jackets are very important to me because I am petite and a
woman, yet
one with responsibility and authority working in a male dominated
industry, often with a team of people older than me.’

Morwenna Wilson


Archive Roger Vivier slingback


Kirtsy Wark’s red Katharine Hamnett jacket and skirt, from 1988
Broadcaster Kirsty Wark photo: Sunday Times

Women Fashion Power is proof (not that we needed any) that
clothes matter and it’s OK to talk about them seriously. This is an
exhibition for fans of fashion and feminism – because we know now that
the two can exist together.

Women Fashion Power is on at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 until 26 April 2015. And I know what I’ll be wearing to the beach next summer…


1930s beach pyjamas


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