WOMAN by Viktor & Rolf, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Veronique Leroy, Ann Demeulemeester, Bernard Willhelm, Martin Margiela, Junya Watanabe en Hussein Chalayan
locatie: Stallen, Centraal Museum, 31 januari 2003 t/m 18 mei 2003

From 1 February 2003 the focus at the Centraal Museum is on the Ideal Woman. What do today’s fashion designers consider the epitome of femininity and seductiveness and how important is that image of the ideal woman in their work? Nine internationally renowned fashion designers present their version of twenty-first-century woman in the Stables and young Dutch fashion designers and photographers contribute their vision in thirty showcases on the banks of Oude Gracht, which leads to the museum.

Different images of women
In the mid-1990s Haute Couture experienced a surprising revival. With this sudden new interest in professional skills and traditional techniques came a fascination for femininity. Fur, high heels, long gloves and twee handbags all came back into vogue. Classic femininity, which had been reviled as unemancipated by feminists in the 1970s, received a new lease of life. It was partly playful irony: Madonna adopting a succession of personas, and Vivienne Westwood with her over-the-top nineteenth-century pigtails. But it represented a turning point. After all, what is femininity? In the twentieth century, mass media, fashion and film produced fantastic images of women, but political, social and feminist ideas have created a woman in the twenty-first century who is quite different to that of a century ago.

Today’s fashion isn’t about an ideal type of woman, like it used to be in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In part, that reflects the different backgrounds and cultures of today’s designers - many of whom are not from the West. For example, the British Cypriot Hussein Chalayan emphatically rejects the traditional image of women as seductive visual objects. He believes that fashion sales have been based around sex for too long. For him, clothes are completely separate, and all about design, archetypes etc. Anyway, what is ‘looking’ all about, and the ‘look’? What’s a veil supposed to hide? These are questions he explores in his installations.

Equally important is that the classic image of femininity and seductiveness has had a dramatic make-over in the last thirty years. The image of woman created by film, photography and fashion in the twentieth century - the glamourous echo of the nineteenth-century lady (the woman as showpiece) - was rejected by feminists in the 1970s. Treating women as objects in high heels was deemed oppressive and patriarchal. In the end this led to a new search for what femininity should represent in the twenty-first century. An emaciated Kate Moss in a shabby room in The Face or the kind of woman Ann Demeulemeester has been sketching for the past ten years.

In the Stables of the Centraal Museum, nine internationally renowned fashion designers present their vision of femininity and the ideal woman in the twenty-first century in the form of installations. The aim is to assemble as many different visions as possible.

Showcases in town
In a series of showcases along the Oude Gracht (the canal leading to the museum), young fashion designers, fashion photography graduates, visagistes and hairstylists present their vision of women of the future. In their showcases the participants display photos, garments and installations.

1 February - 9 March 2003: Shop window project Seduction on the Street. 28 Dutch fashion designers, photographers, beauticians and hairdressers present their view of Woman in Oudegracht shop windows