Théâtre de la Mode: An Exhibition by David Downton

In 1996, the young David Downton was asked to sketch the new fashions during couture week, in Paris. He’d never done that sort of thing before, but he thought, Why not? It would be a free trip to Paris. Downton’s first assignment was to draw the Valentino fittings at the Ritz Hotel. When he arrived, Valentino and his partner, Giancarlo Giammetti—surrounded by half-a-dozen pugs—were draping Amber Valletta in a dress that “looked like liquid gold.” When the week was over, Downton was hooked. For the last quarter century of couture shows, he’s been a fixture in the French capital, turning out his ineffably stylish, impossibly elegant, unmistakably Downton watercolors, gouaches, and cut-paper collages. For this exhibition, the artist reflects on years of fashion drama in a new series of striking works in charcoal. —Elena Clavarino