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The Interview: Oriole Cullen, Head of Modern Textiles and Fashion at The V&A

We caught up with Dublin-born, Cullen following the success of her Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition

Head of Modern Textiles and Fashion at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, Dublin-born Cullen returns home for RHA X, an installation by designer Roland Mouret and acclaimed Irish-based visual artist Dragana Jurišić.

Cullen says the intersection of art and fashion at the inaugural RHA X at the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery will make for a compelling experience.

“It’s always intriguing to pair fashion designers and artists creatively. Often, fashion designers are happy to have a more outside-of-the-box approach and it’s fascinating to see that very rarely do they go down the route of clothing. I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had about why that is typically the rule, not the exception. In Dragana’s work too, there are layered themes of identity and non-obvious, deeper questions.”

Paula Meehan from Museum, 2019, Dragana Jurišić

She feels the future of fashion will see a melding of disciplines and pushing boundaries.

“With young designers now, there is a much more collaborative element to what they are doing, which is exciting. It’s not just about the technical approach to making clothes, but design and art altogether.”

Much as changed in the role of a museum curator since her joining the beloved London institution in 2006.

"For me, when I first arrived, it was all very behind the scenes, the job has evolved a lot since then, and that’s the nature of things. Being front and centre definitely wasn’t the initial draw, I much prefer the research side of things, but it’s par for the course. At the end of the day, I work in public selection so it’s all about access and accountability, so I think it’s important for people to see results from what we are doing."

Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams Exhibition, V&A Museum, London

Job-wise, she gets the best of both worlds.

“My focus is on twentieth-century and contemporary fashion. I’m lucky in that, with looking back on the twentieth century, there are elements of the past while with contemporary fashion, I’m attending the shows and working with young designers. It’s an interesting balance, looking back while being so currently engaged too.”

Curating an exhibition is about opening up new avenues of thought.

“The narrative is at the heart when you start a show, as is the message you want to tell people. It’s very important that they walk away knowing something they didn’t when they walked in the door. What’s exciting about what Dragana and Roland have done is that I think it will really challenge the audience. They want people to have an experience. It’s a great thing that art can do, pose questions about ourselves and our identities and how we feel about things.”

Fashion in Motion, Guo Pei, V&A Museum, London

Fashion’s future is a bright one, albeit one laden with responsibility.

"There are a lot of elements in the fashion world that have been called into question now, which is a good thing and many might argue long overdue. Some of it has had very positive outcomes but there is still a long way to go in terms of diversity and who is represented in fashion. In terms of Me Too, there are a number of photographers and people in the industry who have been called out for behaviour that is just not acceptable. It also opened up a sustainability angle for the whole industry and I think, in order for brands to thrive, they will have to take their social and environmental responsibilities very seriously."

Tickets are available for the RHA X Official Launch Party on 15 November and the RHA X Q&A with Roland Mouret and Dragana Jurišic, hosted by Oriole Cullen on 16 November at Eventbrite

RHA X is open to the public on Saturday, 16 November, from 11 am – 5 pm, and Sunday, 17 November from 12 pm – 5 pm, with free admission.

Read More: RHA X' Artist Dragana Jurišic On The Importance Of Photos In The Creation Of Our Own Self-Narratives