Home CultureArts & Exhibition A new provocative exhibition, NAOMI: In Fashion at the V&A

A new provocative exhibition, NAOMI: In Fashion at the V&A

by Sara Darling

British fashion legend Naomi Campbell might not have strutted down the catwalk of late, but nobody can deny her allure and relevance to the international fashion scene which she has been a part of for the last four decades. Whether you remember her from her catwalk tumble in the towering blue Vivienne Westwood platforms in 1993, which have been reunited with the rest of the outfit for the first time; or her charity work with Nelson Mandela and her iffy relationship with the tabloids, she is a British icon.

naomi campbell va

The latest blockbuster exhibition at the V&A showcases her remarkable journey from a lanky teenage ballet dancer from Streatham to a global star, influential member of the Black Girls Coalition which champions diversity on the catwalk, and founding member of Emerge which pioneers up-and-coming talent; not forgetting the well-documented nineties in her ‘Supermodel’ phase when she moved beyond the world of fashion and became a global phenomenon, appearing as a Playboy cover, launching a perfume and a restaurant chain.

A video set to George Michael’s Freedom 90’ song portrays a montage of Campbells’ career highlights, from starring in the video to major catwalks alongside her fellow supers Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, as well as her appearance alongside Michael Jackson in the Herb Ritts directed video ‘The Closet’.

Scouted by fashion industry stalwart, Beth Boldt aged 15, the first section of the exhibition, ‘Becoming Naomi’, charts her childhood as a south Londoner in the 1970s with original childhood photographs, to her cover, and the groundbreaking Paris Vogue, where at 18 years old was the first ever Black model to take the cover.

Over the years she has walked in countless catwalks, starred in hundreds of fashion campaigns and worked with the industry’s most prestigious designers and photographers, and the exhibition takes a selective view of her path to stardom. Along with images and videos, you can see original items worn including pieces from Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Chanel, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Kenneth Ize, Torishéju Dumi, Valentino and Virgil Abloh.

Her relationship with designer Alaia, who she called “Papa” is explored in the ‘Azzedine Alaïa’ room, and is a touching look at how Campbell was a muse for the late designer’s work. He famously quoted her body as having a “muscle structure like that of a racehorse” and along with BTS photographs, you can see the exclusive shoes he created with its heel based on her legs.

Campbell was also famously in the press for the wrong reasons – being convicted of third-degree assault for hurling a phone at her assistant and ‘The Spotlight’ explores this highly publicised biographical moment, when Campbell served a period of court-ordered community service, which was captured by W magazine when she was wearing head to toe Dolce & Gabbana.

It’s followed by ‘Exemplar’, which highlights collaborations with Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier, then sashays into ‘Alchemy’, where we see Campbell’s unique relationship with world-renowned photographers, including Steven Meisel, Arthur Elgort, Patrick Demarchelier and David Bailey.

The final section, ‘Archetype’, highlights her career-defining moments and work with emerging designers; and although there is little personal information in this impressive showcase aside from old ballet shoes, a school photo as well as a Concord boarding pass, there is no mention of the mother of two who she is today, this is an important retrospective of fashion history.

Where is NAOMI: IN Fashion happening?

NAOMI: In Fashion, 22nd June – 6th April, 2025 at the V&A, Supported by BOSS

How can I book tickets to NAOMI: IN Fashion?

NAOMI: In Fashion will run from 22 June 2024 until 6 April 2025 at the V&A. Tickets, which can be booked here now, cost £16 each.


  • Sara Darling

    Sara has many years’ experience as a fashion & lifestyle journalist, she Co-Founded 55 Magazine in 2011 and still styles and writes across a number of print and web titles. With a passion for travel, fashion and adventures, writing is her dream job. She can never say no to a glass of fizz, owns more than ten pairs of leather trousers and is obsessed with new exercise fads. Current fave is Bounce.

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