MCA curator Naomi Beckwith was photographed after the “David Bowie Is” press preview.
In your opinion, is fashion art?
I have to defer to Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, when they say fashion is not art. Fashion aspires to make great iconic images and forms and sometimes I may prefer those forms to some art objects. Those things take great artistry, but, in the end art has the freedom to take any form or no form. It doesn’t even have to exist at all as an object and that freedom separates art from design.
Would you consider curating a fashion-related exhibit for the MCA? If so, what would be your dream theme?
Firstly, I would like to give respect to the lovely fashion and history of dress curators in the world who do this work all the time. If pressed, I would be interested in presenting a show on the “sapeurs” of the Congo. The sapeurs are a group of men, and a few women, who treat dressing well with religious commitment. It is about fine suits, vibrant colors and never, ever sitting down as it will wrinkle your outfit.
What is great style for you?
Great style for me is all about attention to fabric, form, bodily proportions and, especially, detail. It’s the ability to put the right things together, even in unexpected ways, and it never pays attention to trend. There is no one type of dress that defines great style, but no outfit looks good without a lot of natural confidence.
Why do you think you’re considered one of the best-dressed women in Chicago?
I’m flattered to hear that! I don’t awake everyday with the aim of “looking good” but I do have a sense, inherited from my family, that one should take care with presenting oneself to the world. That doesn’t mean having the latest, greatest thing, intentionally calling attention to oneself, or even having very expensive things. But I do believe clothes must serve their owner well, giving them beauty with ease throughout the day and maybe even providing some visual pleasure to the people who view you.
—Interview and photograph by Isa Giallorenzo
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.