V&A - Bags: Inside Out

Studio MUTT, , 0

 

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Bags: Inside Out at the V&A is the UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the ultimate accessory, featuring 300 items from designer handbags to despatch boxes, exploring our longstanding fascination with the bag

Curated by Dr Lucia Savi and designed by Studio MUTT via a truly collaborative process, the show opened to the public in December 2020 following 2 separate Covid-related delays. The design responds to the particular duality of bags - at once both symbolic and intimately private - by creating two very different experiences across both levels of the V&A Fashion Gallery.

Downstairs, entered through a supersized zip with suspended charm-like brass signage, reflects the rich interiors of bags. Studio MUTT embraced the oddness of the existing space, looking to the poche plan of the V&A as inspiration to create a series of semi-transparent rooms for curatorial sections. Colourful stretched fabric walls line rooms and divide spaces, while screen printing on the fabric adds a layer of flat ornament. Cabinets are imagined as dioramas, using characterful plinths and shelves to mimic the body and enhance the curatorial narrative.

Upstairs, the exhibition looks at the Design and Making process from sketching to sampling, sewing to selling. Large glass cabinets have been clad as an imagined Parisian fashion house and an anonymous industrial building, reflecting the different ways in which bags are conceived and made. The buildings are split and pulled apart to create colourful alleys, arranged as a miniature cityscape through which visitors are encouraged to wander and explore.

Here, bags are displayed in curtain-lined windows, focusing the view on small and delicate objects in large cabinets. Existing polycarbonate cladding has been removed to open up views to Aston Webb's 1909 dome and allow for atmospheric media projections into the alcoves around the gallery. The Makers’ Table, a supersized, theatrical workshop table, presents an opportunity to get up close to the techniques and materials used in making bags. A 10m long table was recycled from a previous exhibition, saving it from landfill.

It has been refurbished with a new linoleum top, an overhead railing for hanging materials, and a central, spool-like drum for displaying talking head interviews with makers. The tabletop contains sketches, samples, tools and prototypes from international fashion houses and emerging designers.

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  • Sector: Arts and culture

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