Combine a City Break with the Art of Haute Couture in Paris, Florence, Milan, Antwerp, Amsterdam and San Sebastián.
Those of you in the sartorial know will be only too aware that the stylish extravaganzas of Paris, New York, London and Milan fashion weeks will shortly be upon us, delivering the trends and tailoring for spring/summer 2015. And if you’ve ever tried getting a hotel room in one of these cities over fashion week, you’ll know you have to spend the big bucks in order to move amongst the designers, movie stars, models and fashion critics all clamouring for their front row space along the catwalk. Yet if you’re crazy about couture and prefer to avoid the financial ramifications of fashion week, there are plenty of city break options available across a wealth of destinations designed to delight fashionistas and retail gurus alike.
Of course, Paris is one of the leading figures in the fashion industry and there’s no shortage of sartorial appreciation on offer in the city of light. Beyond the boutiques and department stores of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré district and the Boulevard Haussmann, the city boasts not one but two museums devoted to fashion, the Palais Galliera, otherwise known as the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, and the Musée de la Mode et du Textile, a sub-section of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and a mere stone’s throw from the Louvre.
As I mentioned in a recent blog, there’s a plethora of fashion themed exhibitions taking place in Paris over the coming months, with ‘Carte Blanche à Christian Lacroix’ on display at the city’s Musée Cognac-Jay until the 19th of April this year. The Palais Galliera meanwhile is gearing up for its forthcoming exhibition devoted to Jeanne Lanvin, France’s oldest fashion house, which opens to the public on the 8th of March and runs until the 23rd of August.
Yet perhaps the biggest fashion draw to Paris this spring will be the fabulous exhibition paying homage to the creativity and design brilliance of Jean-Paul Gaultier taking place at the prestigious Grand Palais. Organised in conjunction with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Maison Jean-Paul Gaultier, Paris and in fact its 10th stop on a worldwide tour, ‘From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ has already seen over one million fashion fans and visitors admire the creations and couture of one of the fashion world’s A-list stars. The exhibition opens on the 1st of April through until the 3rd of August.
As well as in-house temporary collections, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs also promotes a touring programme of exhibitions and this year sees a recent Paris offering devoted to the work of Dries Van Noten move on to Antwerp, another important centre of fashion and the designer’s home town. Hailed as one of the biggest names in Belgian fashion, the exhibition explores the creative inspiration behind Dries Van Noten’s work and presents them alongside classic and contemporary works of art. On display at the MoMu Fashion Museum (where else?), the exhibition runs from the 13th of February through until the 19th of July and is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm. East of Brussels in the city of Hasselt meanwhile (just over an hour by direct train), the Mode Museum prepares to showcase the work of Paul Smith with its exhibition ‘Hello, My Name is Paul Smith’, running from the 30th of January until the 7th of June, 2015.
From Antwerp to Amsterdam and the fashion essential that is the handbag. Every good outfit needs accessories to pull it all together and the Dutch capital’s Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrijke), housed in a beautiful canal-front house, presents the world’s largest historical overview of the handbag. Indeed its permanent collection consists of over 4,000 bags, purses, cases and accessories dating from the late Middle Ages to the present day and is complemented further by periodic temporary exhibitions. This year is no exception as from the 1st of February (until the 3rd of May) , the museum plays host to ‘Happy Birthday, Chanel’, celebrating the 60th birthday of the classic Chanel 2.55 bag, adorned by the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Jackie Kennedy and Kate Moss.
Another accessory pre-requisite, the art of the shoe is celebrated in Florence’s Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, housed in the basement of the company’s headquarters, the medieval Palazzo Spini Feroni, on the Piazza di Santa Trinita. Paying homage to the unique creations of this Italian shoe designer, the eponymous museum displays a collection of photographs, sketches, books, magazines and wooden casts of famous feet, as well as a rotating display of some of Ferragamo’s most striking shoes. Whilst in Florence, be sure also to visit the Gucci Museo, situated on the Piazza della Signoria and dedicated to the world of Gucci, with haute couture, sportswear, jewellery, bags and accessories on display.
Continuing the Italian theme, if you happen to be city breaking in Milan check out the Palazzo Morando, a beautiful Renaissance palace set in the heart of the historic city centre. Inaugurated in 2010, the Palazzo’s ‘Costume, Moda, Immagine’ portfolio, comprising the former costume collection of the Castello Sforzesco, is a natural draw to those wishing to appreciate some of the city’s finest Italian fashion without damaging the credit cards.
Two more quick fashion-related mentions if you happen to fancy an excursion to Normandy or the Basque coastline. Overlooking the Channel Islands and a stone’s throw from the famous Mont St Michel in the town of Granville lies Villa les Rhumbs, formerly Christian Dior’s childhood home and today the base for the Musée Christian Dior. Open May to September, the museum plays host to some wonderful exhibitions and its clifftop gardens complement a visit here to perfection.
Meanwhile in a majestic hilltop villa overlooking the seaside town of Getaria, 25km to the west of San Sebastián, you’ll find the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum, home to some 1,600 sartorial pieces and indeed the most extensive collection of Balenciaga creations in the world. Like Granville, Getaria has strong links to Balenciaga as the Spanish designer was born and buried here.
“The joy of dressing is an art.” – John Galliano
“I don’t do fashion, I am fashion.” – Coco Chanel