A life in clothes: Naomi Campbell’s extraordinary fashion career gets the V&A treatment

The exhibition called “NAOMI,” which opens in June 2024, is the first time the V&A will dedicate a whole show to the career of a fashion model.

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British fashion icon Naomi Campbell, one of the original supermodels who transformed the way the world looks at fashion models, will be the subject of a new exhibition at the V&A Museum in London opening in June 2024.

Titled simply “NAOMI,” the exhibition explores Campbell’s four-decade-long career, giving visitors insight into how she was discovered at age 15, through to how she became one of the most powerful figures in the fashion world.

“Naomi Campbell’s extraordinary career intersects with the best of high fashion,” curator Sonnet Stanfill said in a statement. “She is recognised worldwide as a supermodel, activist, philanthropist, and creative collaborator, making her one of the most prolific and influential figures in contemporary culture.”

It’s the first time the V&A will ever run an exhibition on a model’s entire career – normally the museum’s temporary exhibitions focus on a period in time.

“NAOMI” follows on the heels of the blockbuster fashion exhibition at the V&A “Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion Manifesto,” which runs until February of next year and is currently completely sold out.

A fashion lover’s wildest dreams

The V&A is working closely with Campbell herself to put together the exhibition, which will feature pieces from the supermodel’s own wardrobe as well as looks that graced the catwalk in shows from major designers who shaped her career.

Some of the pieces will come from the V&A’s own fashion collection, which is designated as the UK’s National Collection and is one of the largest and most comprehensive wardrobes in the world.

There will be around 100 looks from almost every big name in fashion, including Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaïa (who Campbell called “Papa”), Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Kenneth Ize, Valentino, Virgil Abloh, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent.

Stanfill told British Vogue that the only look he could confirm will definitely make the cut is the pink feathered and lace gown by Valentino designed for Campbell to wear to the Met Gala in 2019.

Fashion photography will also be a major part of the exhibition, with iconic photos from leading photographers such as Nick Knight, Steven Meisel and Tim Walker.

From Covent Garden to the world

The exhibition will trace Campbell’s extraordinary career from when she was first discovered, as a 15-year-old window shopping in Covent Garden, to the first time she made history at 18 as the first black model to feature on the cover of French Vogue (August 1988).

A trailblazer in the fashion world, Campbell was celebrated for walking the walk and talking the talk. She’s known for her outspokenness and for bringing her own personality to every collaboration she does with major fashion houses, publications and photographers.

Even today, nearly 40 years after making her debut, the 53 year old is still serving looks in global catwalk shows, advertising campaigns and editorial fashion shoots.

Last month, Campbell launched her own fashion line in collaboration with fast fashion brand PrettyLittleThing, facing criticism for the brand’s questionable ethics. She brushed off the comments, saying that white models have been praised for doing fast fashion.

The supermodel is known for her activism and charity work. She’s done a large amount of fundraising in South Africa and across the globe and has championed diversity in the fashion world.

The exhibition at the V&A will feature some of her mentors, including Nelson Mandela, who Campbell began doing charity work with in 1993. She says he opened her eyes to social injustice and inspired her to use her platform for social change. Mandela named her his “Honorary Granddaughter” for her work.

“NAOMI” will be at the V&A South Kensington from 22 June 2024 through 6 April 2025.

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