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MAC Links With André Leon Talley’s ‘Little Black Dress’ Exhibit

The show, which features about 50 garments, will sashay into Paris just in time for couture week in July.

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PARIS — André Leon Talley’s “Little Black Dress” exhibition will sashay into the French capital just in time for couture week in July.

This story first appeared in the June 7, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The show, sponsored by MAC Cosmetics and featuring about 50 garments, is to run from July 3 to Sept. 22 at the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art and Culture here. It debuted last fall at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and has spawned a book by the same name, also by Talley, who recently was appointed Numéro Russia’s editor at large and is a contributing editor at American Vogue.

“We love integration with an academic purpose at the same time that’s fashion, and we thought this was a wonderful opportunity to support important retrospective work and [meanwhile incorporate] makeup,” said John Demsey, group president at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., MAC’s parent.

For the exhibit’s opening party on July 1, MAC plans to showcase a series of face charts with color cosmetics looks created by Gordon Espinet, its senior vice president of makeup artistry, specifically to accompany the brand’s selection of little black dresses from the show, appearing in photographs. Among labels represented are Proenza Schouler, Joseph Altuzarra, Ohne Titel and Prabal Gurung, whose makeup looks MAC conceives during fashion week.

“This is our interpretation of the MAC look for their black dress,” explained Espinet.

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For an Altuzarra piece, he conceived “a little bit like a neo-punk look. It’s very focused on a graphic line on the eye.”

The exhibit will also include creations from the likes of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Diane von Furstenberg and Stella McCartney.

“Most of the dresses in the show have been selected by me because in my memory I have either seen clients wear them or I was with the client when she selected it. Or if it was more contemporary, it was a dress that I had seen in a fashion preview,” said Talley. “A lot of the dresses are contemporary, right up to 2012.

“I am not trying to create a historical perspective of the little black dress,” he continued. “I wanted it to be very contemporary and based on personal experiences.”

Talley reminisced about a Chanel summer ball gown that his late friend Sao Schlumberger owned and then was purchased by Patricia Altschul.

“So I had seen that dress go through two different turns,” he said.

Among Talley’s other favorites are a Madame Grès dress and a Chanel coatdress, which had been owned by Gloria von Thurn und Taxis.

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Demsey said the exhibition suits its employees — who wear black each day — to a T.

People at MAC are well-versed in understanding the importance of black in their wardrobes,” he said. “That was one of the other secret reasons why we love this.”

In more SCAD-related news, the college’s Lacoste, France-based Pfriem Gallery will host another Talley-curated exhibit, called “Antonio Lopez and the World of Fashion.” It highlights 30 years of the fashion illustrator’s work, which appeared in titles such as Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue and Interview. The show will be open to the public from July 4 to Aug. 24 (with the vernissage scheduled for July 3 and 4). It formerly ran at SCAD in Savannah, ending May 5.

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