The Newark Museum of Art (NMOA) is proud to announce the highly anticipated opening of its latest exhibition, “The Story of Newark Fashion: Atelier to Runway,” set to debut on February 22, 2024. This landmark exhibition, in development since 2021, marks the museum’s first large-scale showcase dedicated to contemporary American fashion, celebrating the rich cultural heritage and enduring legacy of Newark’s fashion scene.

Featuring the works of 11 fashion designers with strong connections to Newark, including iconic names such as Narciso Rodriguez, Stephen Burrows, and Project Runway finalist Shavi Lewis, the exhibition pays homage to the city’s deep roots in the garment and jewelry industries. Through a curated selection of designs, archival footage, and oral histories, “The Story of Newark Fashion” highlights the city’s pivotal role in shaping the global fashion landscape.

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At the heart of the exhibition lies a simulated runway display, showcasing the groundbreaking designs of Newark-born Stephen Burrows. Renowned as one of the defining designers of disco-era fashion, Burrows’ influence reverberates through the fashion world. Nine of his garments, symbolically “walking” the runway in Paris, pay homage to his historic presentation at the Battle of Versailles in 1973, a watershed moment in fashion history.


In addition to Burrows’ contributions, the exhibition explores Newark’s rich history as a hub for creativity and innovation in the world of contemporary fashion for over 75 years. From the ateliers of trailblazing designers Wesley Tann and Emily Miles in the 1950s and 1960s to the contemporary designers shaping the industry today, Newark’s fashion legacy is celebrated and contextualized within the global fashion narrative.

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Guest-curated by Kristen J. Owens, a historian of Black fashion, with Tracey “Africa” Norman serving as a curatorial advisor, the exhibition offers a comprehensive look at Newark’s fashion evolution. Norman, an international star of the runway and Newark native, lends her expertise and personal insight to the project, further highlighting the city’s enduring influence on fashion.

“It’s our great pleasure to bring together 46 stunning looks by two generations of Newark’s own fashion pioneers,” says Catherine Evans, Deputy Director, Collections & Curatorial Strategies, The Newark Museum of Art. “The heart of the exhibition installation will be a simulated runway with Stephen Burrows’ garments ‘walking’ the runway, a reference to his extraordinary role at The Battle of Versailles in 1973. Their vibrant originality speaks to Newark as a defining player in the industry.”

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“After years of planning, we are thrilled to unveil a landmark exhibition celebrating Stephen Burrows and the role Newark talent has played in fashion over seven decades,” adds Linda C. Harrison, Director and CEO, The Newark Museum of Art. “If fashion is history in fabric, major threads have been woven by under-recognized designers who have lived and created in the neighborhoods of Newark. We are delighted to present these dazzling designers at the Museum, where community is at the heart of all that we do. It’s participatory culture: building social bonds, a shared identity, a sense of agency, an attachment to place, all serve as a foundation for community power. Come join us!”

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“The Story of Newark Fashion: Atelier to Runway” is made possible by generous support from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, The Coby Foundation, Ltd., and McKinsey & Company. The exhibition is a testament to the creativity, innovation, and resilience of Newark’s fashion community, showcasing the bold innovators who have left an indelible mark on the industry.

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Join us as we celebrate the vibrant tapestry of Newark’s fashion heritage and honor the designers who have shaped the city’s distinctive style for generations to come. “The Story of Newark Fashion: Atelier to Runway” invites visitors to explore the intersection of fashion, history, and culture in a groundbreaking exhibition that promises to leave a lasting impact on the fashion world.

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