“Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.” famously said Coco Chanel. The Vulgar which just closed at the Barbican, London and which will travel to Vienna next month, was the first exhibition to explore the definition of taste in fashion, from the renaissance through to contemporary design. The exhibition includes accessories, items, dresses, pret-a-porter and haute couture pieces, and costumes by important artistic directors such as Christian Dior, Pam Hogg, Christian Lacroix, Miuccia Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli, Philip Treacy, Viktor & Rolf and Vivienne Westwood. The show mixes historical pieces with spectacular settings and strong video material.
Examining the constantly evolving notion of vulgarity in fashion whilst revelling in its excesses, the public was invited to think what makes a garment vulgar and why it is such a challenging notion. An interesting parallel is drawn with traditional costumes and folkloric fashion that inspired Christian Lacroix. Several dresses on loans originate from his native city of Arles, Musee de l’Arlaten.