Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced
22.03.2013 – 28.07.2013
Museum of the City of New York
Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced is the first major examination of the work of the designer The New York Times called in 1977 the “brightest star of American fashion.”
It looks at the period spanning the 1970s when Stephen Burrows’s meteoric rise to fame made him not only the first African-American designer to gain international stature, but a celebrated fashion innovator whose work helped define the look of a generation. With vibrant colors, metallic fabrics, and slinky silhouettes that clung to the body, Burrows’s danceable designs generated a vibrant look that was of a piece with the glamorous, liberated nightlife of the era. Through photographs, drawings, and original garments, the exhibition will trace Burrows’s evolution from creating eclectic looks for his friends in the 1960s to his work with the chic 57th Street retailer Henri Bendel to the floor of Studio 54, as he dressed such 70s style icons as Cher, Liza Minnelli, and Diana Ross.
Burrows’s career was distinguished by a succession of “firsts” – he was the first American designer given a free standing boutique called Stephen Burrows’ World at the trendy retailer Henri Bendel; he was among the five American designers (with Halston, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta) invited to show in Paris in 1973 at the legendary “Battle of Versailles,” which for the first time pitted American designers against the French; he was included among the “Best Six” International Designers in Tokyo in 1977; and he became, in 1973, the first African-American recipient of the prestigious Coty Award (his first of three). Stephen Burrows’s designs reflected a fresh fashion sensibility that helped to solidify America’s identity as a pioneering force rather than a follower of Europe’s fashion lead. The Museum’s exhibition connects these milestones with Burrows’s influential mark on fashion in the 1970s and beyond, and examines his work within the context of the changing New York of the era.