A curator’s job must be so difficult. Deciding which bits of a vast history, body of work or era to include sounds immensely challenging. Perhaps, that is what makes it all the more impressive, and rewarding, when the job is done well. When I planned my visit to the Stephen Burrows exhibit on display at the Museum of the City of New York, I expected to see beautiful clothes arranged in an artful setting. But, both Mr. Burrows work and the museum met, and far exceeded, that expectation!
The very first thing you see when you enter the space that houses this collection is a massive photo of Grace Jones, outfitted in Burrows’ clothes.
This image immediately sets the tone for the liveliness, beauty and attitude of the entire exhibit. Burrows’ work is an explosion of color, pattern, texture and, most of all, movement. Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, is appropriately named.
The designer’s evolution is clear and the way the exhibit has been arranged encourages you to view the pieces in the order of that evolution. Positioned just after Ms. Jones are several sketches. An introduction of sorts.
Leather, fringe, fur, glamour give way to jersey, silk chiffon, sequins, glamour. Even a coat made of wool felt drapes in such a way as to appear weightless. I was also struck by how body conscious and sleek many of the pieces were while still remaining fun and elegant. Quite the accomplishment.
Taking it all in as one evokes a feeling that Iman succinctly sums up:
Even the room is cloaked in billowy fabric, carrying the movement from the clothing up the walls to the ceiling.
The sparse color of the ceiling, background and platforms create the perfect backdrop for this color explosion. The deep ebony mannequins setting them off in a way that any other color just couldn’t do. Their posture communicating self assurance, elegance, class, playfulness, sex appeal.
Stephen Burrows continues to enjoy a thriving career and made a splash at the opening ceremony for the exhibit. It’s so wonderful to see someone receive their honors and accolades during their lifetime. To have the chance to see the impact that their influence has had on their industry. What an amazing privilege.
It’s thrilling to see him smile and mingle with those whose careers mirror his own rise. Iman, Bethann Hardison, and more of the African American glitterati gathered to reminisce with him and show that they still look fabulous in his clothes. This exhibition is just one in a long line of retrospectives, documentary films, awards and fashion milestones. After more than 45 years in the fashion business, he can also add to his list of distinctions the honor of styling for a range that includes collector edition Barbie dolls and the First Lady of the United States.
His continued success and growth into a fashion mogul that has prospered with the times, he’s on Twitter AND Instagram creating his own buzz about his work, makes me think of his contemporaries (like Jaxson and Kelly) who did not live to do the same. With a few of his vintage pieces for sale on Etsy and Ebay, including sewing patterns(!!) and invitations from the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode to present his collections in Paris, make me hopeful for more of his work for years to come.
This review originally appeared on Handmaker’s Factory.
Thanks, again, to Nichola for making the arrangements for me!