A new exhibition at the Design Museum in London explores concepts of power and female self-expression through dress, with a focus on how influential women such as architect Dame Zaha Hadid, and founder and executive chair of e-tailer Net-a-Porter, Natalie Massenet, have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world.
Through clothing, photography, archive footage and interviews, WOMEN FASHION POWER showcases 26 contemporary women in a celebration of their success, and how their codes of dressing communicate.
“Today we see the evolution of a new power dress code. Professional women are engaging with contemporary fashion as a way to express individuality, a sense of style and project empowerment,” says Donna Loveday, the Design Museum’s head of curatorial.
Outfits range from high street staple pieces, such as a Zara red dress with patent belt from 2013, which is often worn by Miriam González Durántez, a partner at international law firm Dechert LLP, to elaborate, high-fashion designs such as the Prada cream satin cape favoured by Hadid, or the Feng Yi Xu Qipao handmade silk embroidered dress worn by Wei Sun Christianson, chief executive officer of Asia Pacific at Morgan Stanley.
The curatorial drive of the exhibition, rather than the fashion exhibits themselves, is the highlight. The feminist ideals at the heart of the exhibition echo the current media focus on feminism, from the release of influential filmmaker Lena Dunham’s book, Not That Kind of Girl, to the influential speech delivered by British actress Emma Watson for the United Nations global solidarity campaign HeForShe.
Karl Lagerfeld was feminism’s unlikely protagonist during Paris Fashion Week when he sent models down the runway touting banners and shouting into megaphones slogans such as “Ladies First” and “History Is Her Story”. See Catwalks S/S 15: Feminist Appeal for more.
For more on how new feminist ideals are shaping the future of everything from media and marketing to retail, see Feminism.com from our coverage of this year’s South By Southwest event in Texas, the Future Female Industry Trend and The New Feminism Opportunity report from our Redefine Macro Trend.