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Commentary: Fashion Is Given Its Due in St. Louis

Nancy Kranzberg

The Fashion Fund here in St. Louis is reclaiming the city's fashion roots and putting fashion as a business back on the national map by supporting emerging designers, stimulating local interest in the industry and building awareness of global fashion trends.

The Fashion Fund is now 5 years old and celebrated with a sold-out fifth anniversary celebration at Neiman Marcus in the fall. The educational wing of the fund, "Future Fashion," has classes dedicated to exploring the diverse world of fashion by teaching students how to design, illustrate, sew and create patterns for students 14 to 18. The Fund partnered with COCA (Center for Creative Arts) in an intense summer program and the course was such a success that it has expanded programming for teens.

Everywhere I look, I see art galleries and other institutions featuring fashion on the front burner. Fashion designer Michael Drummond was selected as curated an exhibition at The Sheldon featuring a myriad of exciting local designers. I heard a lot of “oohs and ahs” when walking through the exciting show and Drummond had his first solo exhibition at The World Chess Hall of Fame in the same month. The exhibition at the Chess Museum was titled, "Being Played." It tied chess and fashion into the world and explored issues of climate change and fashion and community.

Drummond likes to think conceptually with his work and says, "Art based fashion--creating conceptual fashion that hopefully communicates ideas or causes you to think about various subjects--is my direction these days." He addresses the fact that fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world.

And of course, Susan Barrett of Barrett Barrera Projects and projects + gallery has always featured fashion in her galleries. She just closed a fantastic exhibition of photography and fashion at her new projects + exhibitions. “Ann Ray and Lee McQueen: Rendez-Vous” explored the thirteen-year friendship and intimate creative collaboration between the late British designer Lee Alexander McQueen and French photographer Ann Ray, who McQueen personally selected to document his design process and the behind-the-scenes experience in runway shows.

The Missouri History Museum has had many great exhibitions highlighting fashion. One of my favorites was,"The Little Black Dress" which featured more than 60 dresses from the museum’s world-renowned textiles collection. This exhibit explored the subject of mourning as well as the transition of black from a symbol of grief to a symbol of high fashion. It also traced the influence of French designer Coco Chanel, who revolutionized fashion by introducing the little black dress as a versatile and accessible garment.

The Field House Museum is currently exhibiting "Finishing Touches" which explores the most in-vogue accoutrements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and multiple meanings and purposes of fashion accessories in the era of the Fields. A wide range of pieces that once belonged to the Field family are proudly featured and serve as focal points in the exhibition. From Julia Field's dainty shoes to Eugene Field's cane made from a shark's spine, these rarely displayed treasures are sure to delight lovers of history and fashion alike.

And even the Jewish Book Festival featured world famous fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi as the opening speaker and packed the house.

Whether you are a fashionista or not, one can't help but take note of the abundance of and attention paid to fashion in our fair city.


Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for more than thirty years on numerous arts related boards.