Unveiled to press last night and opening to the public today, When You're a Boy is The Photographers' Gallery first major fashion exhibition since moving to its new home on Ramillies Street. Eagerly awaited by almost everyone in the industry, not least the SHOWstudio team - Foxton is a regular contributor and the exhibition's curator is our former Editor in Chief Penny Martin. With a career spanning three decades, Foxton is both a groundbreaking menswear stylist, and a much-loved personality. He is rarely interviewed and up until this point, the only extensive exploration of his working practice has been in our multi-layered Sittings: 30 Men project from April 2005. For this, Foxton styled thirty male models as 'living magazine pages' in front of the SHOWstudio webcams, accompanied by a telephone so they could take questions from viewers. Alongside archive images, the project also worked as a profile incorporating scrapbooks and source material, a panopticon of Foxton's infamous shed, films, essays and image galleries. When You're a Boy is Professor Penny Martin's first major project since ending her seven year tenure at SHOWstudio and taking up the Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Fashion Imagery at the London College of Fashion; never one to do things by halves, Martin has been simultaneously co-curating our upcoming SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution exhibition opening at Somerset House in September.
Different to conventional fashion photography shows -usually centring on one photographer's pictures of women's fashion- Martin has taken the unprecedented move of focusing on one male stylist who works with men's fashion. The first ever exhibition dedicated entirely to the work of a stylist, When You're a Boy demonstrates the growth and development of men's fashion over the past three decades and marks the acknowledgement of the invaluable role of stylist in the creation of an image. Eschewing a stark white backdrop, the exhibition's design mirrors Foxton's trademark warmth and sensitivity, using a shade of paint one would normally expect in the home and incorporates a picture shelf displaying a selection of mismatched frames. Focusing primarily on continued and longstanding working relationships with three key photographers -Nick Knight, Jason Evans and Alasdair McLellen - the exhibition plays host to a number of memorable and inspirational works including Knight's 'English Heritage' (2005) and Evans' seminal fashion series 'Strictly' (1991). The picture shelf displaying prints and tearsheets from Foxton's collaborations with other photographers including Ben Dunbar-Brunton, Benjamin Alexander Huseby, Giles Price and David Sims reinforces the varied working dynamics and highlights a constant revisiting of key themes such as masculinity, national identity and taste. As well as showcasing the stunning editorial, the exhibition gives special attention to the stylist's working process. Foxton has kept scrapbooks since 1981 when he was studying at St. Martins and a selection drawn from his extensive archives are displayed in glass cabinets, revealing varied contemporary and historical points of reference be it Nineteenth Century portrait paintings or pornographic tears.
'When You're a Boy: Men's Fashion Styled by Simon Foxton' opens at the Photographers' Gallery today and runs until 4 October 2009. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive programme of events including an In Conversation and film nights and a catalogue designed by Paul Hetherington.