Last Thursday I went to celebrate the opening of the Cabinet Stories exhibition at the Emmaus Greenwich shop in Poplar.
A collaboration between the Centre for Fashion Curation and the Social Responsibility team at LCF, Cabinet Stories is part of our Better Lives work – a term we use at London College of Fashion to describe the work we do that uses fashion, as a discipline, to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live.
In recent years, fashion exhibitions have become incredibly popular, think ‘Savage Beauty’ in the UK or ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ in the US. Although our staff at LCF are often involved in creating these “blockbuster” shows, we think it’s important that a wide variety of people are able to access fashion exhibitions, as everybody has different ideas about how fashion can be shown.
Curator, Alison Moloney came up with the idea of a travelling cabinet that could be taken round to audiences usually unable to access museum displays.
She explains how “Cabinet Stories reduces the exhibition to its simplest format – a single cabinet. The cabinet became the venue for seven different displays curated by my colleagues Amy de la Haye, Jeff Horsely, Carol Tulloch and myself from UAL, alongside Jacob Moss from The Fan Museum and Oriole Cullen from the V&A.
“As I don’t have a gallery space, projects such as Cabinet Stories, which tour to the audience, are very instinctive for me. My work also has a strong emphasis on widening participation and I explore different media outcomes – for example film with my project 1914 Now – to reach these audiences.”
Cabinet Stories launched in early 2016 and started its journey at LCF’s social enterprise manufacturing unit at a women’s prison in London and has since toured to the East London NHS Foundation and Silk Court care home in Bethnal Green.
Alison said: “I was working with audiences with whom I had not worked with before – women in a London prison, patients with borderline personality disorder and older people in a residential care home. By bringing many different perspectives to these audiences enabled a wider conversation with different ideas sparking conversation and dialogue.”
After touring these different East London venues, Cabinet Stories is now open to the public in the Emmaus charity shop in Popular, where all seven exhibitions are displayed at the same time.
“It is extremely pertinent that Emmaus is hosting us, not only because the clothes they sell form an important part of the fashion industry cycle, but because of the incredible work that they do in helping to support individuals and communities. We have already had a great reaction to the exhibition in the charity shop – people don’t expect to see it there but are pleased that it is.”
And, it was particularly important for LCF to bring this project to Poplar:
“We always wanted the exhibitions to be open to the wider public and we decided to focus on East London, and Chrisp Street Market in particular, in light of the work LCF is doing with Fashioning Poplar and also because of our move to Stratford.”
The exhibition features work from designers such as Faustine Steinmetz and Phoebe English. Visitors can get a glimpse into some of the incredible techniques used by these designers in their recent work. There is also a beautiful display of fans, all with fascinating stories, which I particularly enjoyed.
A limited edition tote bag has also been made using fabric donated by Peter Jensen, to be sold at Emmaus Poplar shop. The bags cost £16 and were handmade by women at the Training and Manufacturing Workshop based at HMP Downview, an initiative which is run by LCF. All profits from the sale of the bags will go to Emmaus charity.
The exhibition is accompanied by a free workshop programme, some of which will be open to the public on a first come first served basis. Follow LCF on Twitter to find out details about the workshops.
Cabinet Stories will be on display from 7 October to 2 November 2016 at Emmaus Greenwich, Poplar Shop, 175-179 E India Dock Rd, London E14 0EA.