Naomi Campbell’s modelling career to be honoured in new V&A exhibition

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has announced it will be holding an exhibition showcasing the life and work of British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

This marks the first time the South Kensington museum has held an exhibition focusing on the career of a living fashion model.

Campbell’s career of almost 40 years will be chronicled through 100 curated outfits that she has worn throughout her time as a model, both on the runway and in her personal life.

The exhibition, titled NAOMI,  will also look at how Campbell, who is regarded as one of the first original supermodels after she rose to fame in the late Eighties, went from a household name to a cultural icon.

The model, now 53, was born in Streatham and made her way into the modelling industry after she was scouted at the age of 15 in Coven Garden, London. She quickly rose to prominence and famously became the first Black model to star on the cover of Vogue Paris in 1988.

Sonnet Stanfill, senior curator of fashion at the V&A and lead curator for the NAOMI exhibition, told The Telegraph: “It’s a rich array of high quality high fashion… [while] also being able to showcase her work as an activist, a philanthropist and a creative collaborator, so she’s not a kind of passive clothes hanger.”

“Naomi has become a cultural figure in her own right,” she added.

“I think there is, perhaps among the general public, a conception of the work of a model as a life of ease and glamour,” she said.

Naomi Campbell walking in the PrettyLittleThing x Naomi Campbell runway in September

(Getty Images)

She added: “While that may be partially true, it ignores the hard work that’s required of a working model.”

Campbell is still regarded as one of the top high fashion British supermodels as she continues to work with top designers across the world, many of whom she has close working relationships with. At Milan Fashion Week last month, the model stunned on the Dolce & Gabbana runway as she delivered her iconic walk wearing a black sheer maxi dress. She also walked for Coperni Womenswear Spring/Summer 2024 as part of Paris Fashion Week, as well as Sarah Burton’s last show as creative director for Alexander McQueen last week.

The exhibition is billed to also focus on Campbell’s well-known activism work, in which she has campaigned on social issues and raised funds in South Africa and across the world. She has long credited the inspiration behind her charity work to Nelson Mandela, whom she knew personally. He once named her his “honorary granddaughter” for her philanthropic work.

February 1998: Nelson Mandela (L) hugs British supermodel Naomi Campbell in front of American actress Mia Farrow, British model Kate Moss (second from left) and model Christy Turlington

(AFP/Getty Images)

Campbell, along with Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and the late Tatjana Patitz, are regarded as the first cohort of British supermodels to achieve international fame. The models, except for the late Patitz who died earlier this year, all spoke of their early careers and entry into the fashion industry in a new Apple TV+ series titled The Super Models, which was released last month.

In it, Campbell discussed the racism she faced early on in her career in the fashion industry and the social and financial difficulties she faced trying to make her way in New York in the Nineties.

On its website, the V&A calls the exhibition the “first of its kind”.

“Through the work of leading global designers and photographers we celebrate her creative collaborations, activist and far-reaching cultural impact.”

Though this is not the first time an exhibition about a living person has taken place at the institution – there was a showcase on Kylie Minogue’s life and career in 2007 – the exhibition marks the first celebration of an individual living model’s career.

NAOMI opens at the V&A on Saturday 22 June 2024 to April 6 2025 and tickets are expected to be available soon.

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