Valerie Steele is director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she has organized more than 20 exhibitions since 1997, including The Corset, London Fashion, Gothic: Dark Glamour; Shoe Obsession, Daphne Guinness, A Queer History of Fashion, and Dance and Fashion. She is also founder and editor in chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, the first peer-reviewed, scholarly journal in Fashion Studies.
Steele combines serious scholarship (and a Yale Ph.D) with the rare ability to communicate with general audiences. She is author or co-author of more than 20 books, including Fashion and Eroticism, Paris Fashion, Women of Fashion, Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power, The Corset: A Cultural History, Gothic: Dark Glamour, Japan Fashion Now, The Impossible Collection Fashion, The Berg Companion to Fashion, and. Fashion Designers A-Z: The Collection of The Museum at FIT, as well as contributing essays to publications, such as Fashion and Art and Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity. Her books have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian.
As author, curator, editor, and public intellectual, Valerie Steele has been instrumental in creating the modern field of fashion studies and in raising awareness of the cultural significance of fashion. She has appeared on many television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and Undressed: The Story of Fashion. Described in The Washington Post as one of “fashion’s brainiest women” and by Suzy Menkes as “The Freud of Fashion,” she was listed as one of “The People Shaping the Global Fashion Industry” in the Business of Fashion 500: (2014 and 2015).
Valerie Steele will discuss the current situation in fashion, which some observers perceive as “the end of fashion.” Is the fashion system broken or unsustainable? Certainly, the impact of globalization and technology has transformed the production and consumption of fashion. The rise of fast fashion has accelerated the speed of all fashion, exerting new pressures on designers, garment workers, and the environment. Some fashion professionals have called for an entirely new calendar to accommodate the idea: See now, buy now. Others suggest that innovative ideas need time to flourish. Some designers are hopeful that new materials and technologies may result in new and, as yet barely imagined, design possibilities. At the same time, there is a growing appreciation of craftsmanship. Although Paris is still the world’s most powerful fashion capital, creativity is emerging in cities around the world. But how can independent designers in cities on the periphery hope to compete with high fashion mega-companies like LVMH and fast fashion behemoths like H&M?