World Chess Hall of Fame, Saint Louis, USA, 2013-14
Within every woman, there is a queen who possesses the most idealised qualities of contemporary womanhood: strength, beauty, leadership, grace, authority and fear. The fashion designer understands this duality better than most. By creating clothing that taps into the beauty and power of female archetypes, the fashion designer creates clothing that portrays who we are and, most importantly, who we want to be.

A Queen Within explores how the power and the symbolism of nine queenly archetypes – The Sage, Mother Figure, Enchantress, Magician, Explorer, Ruler, Heroine, Mother Earth and Thespian – have captured the imaginations of contemporary fashion designers. Throughout the exhibition, both the powers and the weaknesses of each archetype are articulated through garments, but also through photography, film, artwork and storytelling.

The nine themes are based on interpretations of some of the most familiar female archetypes, derived from observing recurring motives in the myths and fairytales of world literature. It is widely believed that an individual’s personality, male or female, is moulded by the traits of several different archetypes: however, one always tends to dominate.

Each designer and artist featured in this exhibition has included storytelling or has employed symbolism in their work. Indeed, the stories of these familiar archetypes is often illustrated through the creation of conceptual collections, by conceiving characters or through the use of universally known, nonverbal symbols that are nevertheless rich with information.

Through historical symbolism, culled from the annals of art history, the exhibition also explores how the notion of the feminine has evolved from the European Renaissance to today. In royal paintings and portraits, symbols including eyes, ears, serpents, crests and wings were invoked to emphasise the queen’s presence, lineage and power. These same symbols, along with many others, appear throughout the exhibition as specially made sculptures that further materialise these queenly allegories.

Objects from the following designers and artists were exhibited – Alexander McQueen, Anne Deniau, Anrealage, Bea Szenfeld, Chan Luu, Charlie Le Mindu, Gianfranco Ferre, Gucci, Hideki Seo, Henrik Vibskov, Hussein Chalayan, Iris Schieferstein, Iris Van Herpen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jordan Askill, Josefin Arnell, Keta Gutmane, Koji Arai, Maiko Takeda, Maison Martin Margiela, Michael Drummond, Minju Kim, Noritaka Tatehana, Octavia Xiaozi Yang, Pam Hogg, Rein Vollenga, Rejina Pyo, Ryohei Kawanishi, Sandra Backlund, Serena Gili, Shaun Leane and Daphne Guinness, Tabitha Osler, Viktor & Rolf and Writtenafterwards.

In addition, Charlie Le Mindu created bespoke head pieces for the exhibition. Artists Orlando Campbell and Karolina Kling were commissioned to contribute with artwork and sculptures.