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V&A Celebrates Naomi Campbell’s Trailblazing Career

100 looks are on display, including the iconic Covid hazmat suit and the ill-fated Vivienne Westwood heels.

By Ellys Woodhouse

Naomi Campbell has made a career from making history. The first black model to star on the covers of British and French Vogue, the first black model on American Vogue’s pivotal September issue, and the first black model to open for Prada, she’s had 40 years of breaking fashion rules and norms – and she’s not about to slow down now. 

When doors open on Thursday, June 22, Naomi Campbell will become the first model ever honored with a retrospective at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Naomi: In Fashion explores the fashion model’s extraordinary career, through photography and archival collections to celebrate Campbell’s life, cultural impacts and trailblazing moments.  

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Items and clothing have been pulled from Naomi Campbell’s personal collection / ©Dave Benett, Getty Images

Produced by the V&A in collaboration with Campbell herself, Naomi doesn’t take an encyclopedic approach to Campbell’s biography, but this is Campbell telling her side of her story. Personal items and clothing are pulled from her own archival collection, while she’s also supplied captions for each piece and even curated the music.

In total, there are around 100 looks on display in Naomi, drawing from her own extensive wardrobe along with loans from designer archives and objects from the V&A’s collection to document the very best in global high fashion. At moments, mixing humor and high fashion, Campbell chronicles her life from the 15-year-old south London girl scouted on the streets of Covent Garden to becoming the world’s biggest supermodel. 

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There are around 100 looks on display in the exhibition / ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Among those on display are the infamous sky-high Vivienne Westwood platform heels, the culprit behind Campbell’s now iconic 1993 catwalk fall – recreated on a mannequin that finds itself planked on the floor. There’s also the Covid-era Hazmat suit, mask and Burberry cape look, and who could forget her 2007 community service uniform, the silver Dolce & Gabbana gown worn to strut out of the New York Sanitation Department. 

“I’m honored to be asked by the V&A to share my life in clothes with the world,” Campbell said upon the announcement of Naomi.  

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Campbell describes the exhibition as sharing her life in clothes / ©Victoria and Albert Museum

In addition to stunning garments and fashion accessories, fashion photography features prominently, with imagery from leading photographers like Nick Knight, Steven Meisel and Tim Walker curated by British Vogue’s former editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful. 

“We’re delighted to be working with Naomi Campbell on this project and to celebrate her career with our audiences,” said the V&A senior curator of fashion, Sonnet Stanfill. “Naomi Campbell’s extraordinary career intersects with the best of high fashion. She is recognized worldwide as a supermodel, activist, philanthropist and creative collaborator, making her one of the most prolific and influential figures in contemporary culture.”

The exhibition is the latest in the V&A’s series of revelatory fashion exhibitions, which started back in 2017, and the museum currently holds one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of dress in the world.

Naomi: In Fashion will run at the Victoria and Albert Museum from June 22, 2024 to April 6, 2025.

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