DREAMSUITS: Designs by Nudie Cohn, the Rodeo Tailor

The stylised cowboy suit. – we all know that now classic overblown American style. Heavily embroidered with iconic western imagery they became the epitome of idealised American machismo (bordering on camp). It seemed to point to a heroic Western utopia that in reality never really existed. What is less well known is that this style was dreamt up by one man, the designer Nudie Cohn. To celebrate his life and massive impact on the world of style a book and exhibition have been launched that features some of the jewels of his cowboy finery.

MoMu will host Dreamsuits – Designs by Nudie Cohn, the Rodeo Tailor fascinating outfits, accessories and ephemera by the legendary Nudie Cohn. Drawn from the personal collection of iconic Belgian entertainer Bobbejaan Schoepen and his wife Josée, this show — curated by fashion historian Mairi MacKenzie and designer R. Cerimagic — will be the first European exhibition to examine the work of the Ukrainian born tailor who revolutionized the clothing of Country & Western Music.

Originally a designer of highly embellished g-strings for New York strippers, Nudie Cohn moved to Hollywood in 1947 and originated the rhinestone cowboy look that has become visual shorthand for Country & Western style. His fantastical, intricately embroidered and heavily ornamented outfits adorned the backs of numerous music and film stars, including Elvis Presley, Gram Parsons, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Elton John, Cher, John Lennon, Steve McQueen, Johnny Cash, and Bobbejaan Schoepen. Today his work is still sought after and admired. Contemporary musicians such as Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream, Mike Mills from R.E.M. and Beck, fashion photographers such as Craig McDean and fashion designers from Tommy Hilfiger to Ralph Lauren have been inspired by his incredible designs.

Bobbejaan Schoepen was a lifelong client and collector of Nudie Cohn designs. This resulted in a close friendship between the two men, and an exceptionally large and well-preserved collection of Nudie designs. This exhibition will celebrate both Nudie’s very particular aesthetic as well as the relationship between these extraordinary men.

In parallel with the exhibition at the MoMu Gallery, Lannoo Publishers produced the book, Dreamsuits: The Wonderful World of Nudie Cohn written by Mairi MacKenzie, featuring archival material from Nudie Cohn, Bobbejaan Schoepen and other stars, detailed pictures of the suits and the story of the original Rodeo Tailor.

DREAMSUITS. Designs by Nudie Cohn, the rodeo tailor – Featuring the collection of Bobbejaan Schoepen runs from October 28th, 2011 till February 12th, 2012 in the MoMu Gallery. Free entrance.

DREAMSUITS. The Wonderful World of Nudie Cohn is published by Lannoo Publishers

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