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Fashion’s Night Out

September 8, 2011

It’s September. A month that prepares me for my favorite time of the year: autumn. Contrary to the artistic trope for which it’s many times used, autumn for me means a fresh start, a new beginning – with some old favorites for comfort, of course. The sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of the fall bring to me just as big a flood of memories as they do an overwhelming sense of hope for the future.

Duncan Phillips on a transatlantic journey, 1920s. Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

September is an important month not only for eager parents and educators. It’s a major month for the fashion industry – hearing the “thump” of the Vogue September issue hit the floor outside my front door is a glorious sound. Today is Fashion’s Night Out, an initiative started three years ago by everyone’s favorite editor, Anna Wintour. Originally this annual evening of shopping in September was meant to kick off the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York and encourage retail sales for the season. It has since evolved into an amalgamation of charitable events and industry-led celebrity appearances and parties.

What does fashion have to do with the Phillips, you ask? Have you seen pictures of Duncan Phillips? The man knew how to wear a suit. Also (and more importantly), Phillips understood very well how artists’ works can inspire different methods of the creative process.

It’s commonplace  in the world of fashion for designers to credit visual artists for the inspiration behind their collections and for design houses to collaborate with art institutions and foundations. Christian Dior and contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang collaborated for a 2008-09 exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, highlighting periods in the history of fashion. John Galliano included works inspired by the illustrations of french artist René Gruau for Dior’s spring 2011 haute couture collection. Carolina Herrera created a line of wedding gowns as an homage to painters, and later drew upon literary and artistic works.

Most recently, and perhaps most notably, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York collaborated with the design house of Alexander McQueen in a posthumous tribute for Savage Beauty (many argue that Alexander McQueen was one to have blurred the lines between art and fashion).

The Phillips has embraced the impact of art on fashion (and vice versa) in its programming. For our Robert Ryman exhibition last year, we hosted a program in collaboration with Neiman Marcus Mazza Gallerie featuring designer Jason Wu’s Ryman-inspired line for Tse, and during our Philip Guston exhibition we teamed up again to showcase Italian designs (many in Guston’s pink palette) for a Roman Holiday event.

Fashion’s Night Out in Georgetown runs 6-11pm tonight. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runs September 8-15 in New York’s Bryant Park.

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