LONDON — The Sala Canal de Isabel II, an exhibition hall in Madrid, Spain, that resembles a lighthouse from the outside, is shining a spotlight on the work of native fashion designer Sybilla, who rose to fame in the ’80s with minimal avant-garde designs.
The retrospective, titled “The Invisible Thread,” is the designer’s largest exhibition to date, running until Jan. 15, and curated by her friend Laura Cerrato Mera.
It will include more than 80 pieces of Sybilla’s designs, as well as catalogues, catwalk show footage, lavish invitations, press clippings and artifacts to illustrate the designer’s four-decade career.
The exhibition space is divided into five sections across five floors — “The Basting Thread,” “The Warp Thread,” “The Weft Thread,” “The Thread of Time” and “A Thread of Whispers” — to track Sybilla’s success.
“Preparing this exhibition under Laura Cerrato’s guidance has forced me to assess and somehow rationalize my working processes over the years and, through my conversations with her, has helped me understand them,” Sybilla says.
The exhibition starts in the 1980s, when the designer was part of the La Movida Madrileña countercultrual movement that took place after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. This is where Sybilla established her designs by sharing them with her community and started a longtime collaboration with photographers Javier Vallhonrat and Juan Gatti.
Sybilla has always had a flair for architecture in her garments — on display on the second floor is her practice of painting fabrics and playing with sculptures and geometry, which expanded into bridalwear.
Sensuality and beauty are the theme of the third section, “The Weft Thread,” where Sybilla showcases contrasting ideas, including angles and curves, rigidity and fluidity, black and color, and extravagance and simplicity in her “Airport” collection from 1989, and pieces from her Sybilla Noche line.
The Spanish designer was a sustainability leader in the ’90s and worked briefly for the Italian house of Capucci before taking a long hiatus after to focus on craft and interiors, which is on display in “The Thread of Time.”
“A Thread of Whispers,” the final section, features a special video where Sybilla meditates on the epochs of her career, the fashion industry, her aspirations and obsessions.
“It hasn’t been easy for me, as everything I do tends to be quite spontaneous and unconscious. I do what I like, what comes up at any given moment, and I’m the first to be surprised by the results,” she concludes.