Exhibition Review: Hubert de Givenchy @ Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, Calais.

As a come back after the month of August, I thought I’d tell you about a museum I fell in love with a couple of years ago: the Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode in Calais. It currently hosts an exhibition about Hubert de Givenchy, the art director being the couturier himself.

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Tribute to the fashion artisans, Hubert de Givenchy @ Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, Calais, Sept 2017. Credit: Maxime Laprade.

After a brief summary of Givenchy’s life and career, displays of dresses follow one another. They are organized by themes, such as ‘Audrey Hepburn’, ‘Lace’, ‘The Brides’. Between them, smaller displays present perfumes, sketches and magazine covers. In terms of curation, it is a very simple exhibition. It is only dresses on mannequins. There is not even a lot of text to go with them. But it does not diminish the quality of it. It is so well executed that simplicity becomes a style, and the exhibition a visually very pleasurable promenade. A beautiful hommage to his team, as Hubert de Givenchy wanted.

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Evening dress, Summer 1966, in front of a photo of the Duchess of Windsor and the Baroness of Redes at a party in Paris, photographed wearing the same evening gown (1966), Hubert de Givenchy @ Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, Calais, Sept 2017. Credit: Maxime Laprade.

Some details are really well thought of. Photos of celebrities (Audrey Hepburn, Jacky Kennedy) and models wearing the dresses incorporated in the displays, mirrors put in the right places, interviews of Hubert de Givenchy punctuating the exhibition, … it is so elegantly made that I took pleasure wondering around the space in silence, admiring the work of the couturier. One idea is worth mentioning. In the small display about Givenchy’s perfumes, it is possible to smell two scents per perfume. One is the main ingredient and the other the perfume itself. It is thus possible to make links between the two. I really thought it was a great initiative, somehow giving insights into the process of producing a perfume.

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Evening dress, 1985, Hubert de Givenchy @ Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, Calais, Sept 2017. Credit: Maxime Laprade.

It is not an innovative exhibition with challenging curatorial practices but that’s not what I was expecting or looking for. After spending a few weeks going back several times to the spectacle of the tiring – but amazing – Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris for a review I am writing, when I went to Calais at the beginning of the week, I was just looking for beautiful dresses in a nice and peaceful environment to reconnect with fashion and exhibition making. That’s what I got and that was enough.

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The Brides, Hubert de Givenchy @ Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode, Calais, Sept 2017. Credit: Maxime Laprade.

Once the exhibition finished, I head to the permanent galleries. About lace and fashion, they are organized in five categories. The first one introduces the history of lace and shows creations made before the age of machines. Then is explained how Calais became a center of the lace industry, presenting archives from the city and historical companies. The third category describes the different techniques and processes to creates lace, with machines this time. Following, a gallery is dedicated to lace in fashion. It concludes with innovations in textiles, the last space presenting the work of young designers from the area. It’s full of information, well designed, accessible to different audiences and engages with different senses (view, touch, hearing).

It was not my first time there, but as it happens, I spent hours wondering around the galleries and left almost sad to leave it behind. If you are in the area, the Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode in Calais is definitely a go-to!

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