NTUs Naomi Braithwaite discusses V&As Chanel exhibition

NTU's Naomi Braithwaite discusses V&A's Chanel exhibition

 September 27, 2023

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The expert wisdom and insight of Nottingham Trent University (NTU) women academics is valued across industry and media.

Associate Professor in Fashion Marketing & Branding, Naomi Braithwaite, spoke with The Conversation about her research, following the UK’s first exhibition dedicated to the work of French fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel that opened at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A), and is a reworking of the original Chanel exhibition at the Palais Gallieria in Paris in 2020.

A dazzling display of Chanel’s creations

"Through a dazzling display of Chanel’s creations through the years, from jersey fabric, tweed, embroidery and of course little black dresses, the exhibition gives a compelling insight into the life and work of Chanel and her lasting contribution to the world of fashion," suggests Naomi. "How the work is displayed alongside photographs, films and anecdotes about Chanel herself portrays not just how she shaped a change in fashion, but a true sense of her independent and revolutionary spirit."

Making a mark on the world’s fashion stage

Naomi provides perspective on looking back over Coco's illustrious career. "Chanel came to her career in fashion as a milliner, creating hats for French actresses. In 1912, she opened her first Chanel boutique in Deauville, a seaside resort in France’s Normandy region, selling lines of sportswear made from jersey, a knitted fabric. Chanel’s couture house was established in 1918 at 31 rue Cambon, Paris and from here she made her mark on the world’s fashion stage," explains Naomi. The exhibition carefully charts how the evolution of her dress designs is reflective of Chanel’s response to society’s expectations of how women should dress. As standards changed, Chanel’s designs became more daring with low cut backs and exposed decolletage (neck and chest).

And Naomi's favorite item? "In an exhibition full of so many wonderful designs, it is hard to reflect on what could be my one stand-out piece," says Naomi. "I return to the Marinière blouse from 1916. Although simplistic in its aesthetic appeal it is important because it signals a change in fabric use, design and how women could present themselves socially through dress, and is testament to the great legacy of Mademoiselle Chanel."

Fashion industry expert 

In 2012, Naomi achieved a doctorate from Nottingham Trent University in the discipline of material culture, titled: Shoe Design: an Ethnographic Study of Creativity. The empirical focus of the thesis centred on the creative practice of a number of British, luxury shoe designers. This study further developed research undertaken as part of her MRes in Anthropology at UCL. Naomi comes from an interdisciplinary background having previously received a BA (Hons) in Theology and History of Art at The University of Bristol, followed by the MA in The History of Textiles and Dress at Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton).

In 2014, Naomi joined CIE-MAP (the Centre for Industrial Energy Materials and Products) as a Research Fellow in Product Lifetimes. Prior to taking up this Research Fellowship she had lectured extensively at NTU, HKDI and Manchester Metropolitan University in the fields of International Fashion Business, Fashion Marketing, Branding, Promotion and Communication, Consumer Trends, Research Methods and Design and Visual Culture.

Naomi worked for 13 years in the designer shoe industry as an International Sales and Retail Manager, managing and developing high profile accounts in the USA, Europe, Australia and the Far East.

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