For the Peruvian by-way-of-France-and-Chile fashion curator, Pamela Golbin, the notion of national pride is a foreign concept, having spent so much of her childhood traversing between Buenos Aires, Europe and America. She laughs, "I have so many passports so it’s very difficult for me to understand. I think because I’m so multicultural, fashion is just a different language for me. It’s not an aural language but it’s a very constructed and sophisticated language and that’s what’s always fascinated me."
Golbin’s epiphany occurred as a teenager visiting an 18th century exhibition with her adored grandmother. "I was really blown away, not so much by the actual costumes but I was so fascinated to understand why people got dressed, why women had to wear these things how they moved and put them on. The whole sociological aspect of men and women’s attire really spoke to me." Her grandmother, a couture client, arranged an internship at Yves Saint Laurent when she was 17, which fell through at the last minute, leading to work experience at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile instead, where she has been ever since. "It’s funny how things work out," Golbin nods, "What’s wonderful about Paris at that time is museums were a really exciting place and it was a moment where there was so much going on." In the 1980s, fashion being displayed in museums was still a relatively new concept which Golbin reckons worked to her advantage. "What was so exciting about starting off at that time is that we were the first generation of curators that were young in this field. The popularity of fashion exhibitions nowadays shows to what extent myself and my colleagues have made a difference. But it really started then and had never been done before so it was exciting to be there from the beginning.”
"The exhibition was a way to speak about two moments in fashion history which are crucial. With Louis it was about industrialisation and with Marc it’s about globalisation."
Far from being chilly and forbidding as her impressive credentials may suggest, Golbin is warm and funny and prone to gales of honking laughter. Under her curatorial eye, the museum has played host to retrospectives on Vionnet, Lacroix, Valentino and YSL to the groundbreaking Balenciaga exhibition in 2007 which dared to compare and contrast the work of the house’s founder with its current creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, a move that shocked many at the time. "Because we are here at the Decoratif Arts in Paris, for me I thought it was crucial to push the idea of a retrospective and include the work Nicolas was doing," recalls Golbin. "We had a long conversation about this and at first Nicolas was like, "I don’t think I could do this." As a curator of 20th century and contemporary fashion, one of our jobs is to accompany contemporary designers to look back at the history of the houses. It wasn’t easy that’s for sure and a lot of people were disappointed that we did show a contemporary aspect to it. But it’s important to talk about the founder and his design. Today it’s not about a house but about companies and institutions for the most part, so not to speak of the contemporary design aspect would not speak of the house."
She’s applying this same daring logic with the much-anticipated new exhibition opening at the Musée in March, Louis Vuitton - Marc Jacobs. For Golbin, "What really interested me were these two men — Louis as founder of the house and Marc as the artistic director since 1997. It was a way to speak about two moments in fashion history which are crucial. With Louis it was about industrialisation and with Marc it’s about globalisation." What fascinated Golbin in the course of curating the exhibition was seeing the parallels between these two men and how Jacobs has turned the behemoth into the most potent luxury brand of our times. "From the very beginning he had a specific vision of what he wanted to bring to LV and slowly he’s been bringing that. When it comes to fashion, he was able to bring in all the power and energy of fashion without taking away any of the 150 year heritage. He has constituted a fashion house within a luxury brand."
Louis Vuitton - Marc Jacobs will be on display at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile from March 9 to September 16, 2012.