Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style

A Fashion Icon with a Wardrobe to Back it Up

Written by: Dayne Pratt
International supermodel Tatiana Sorokko’s collection of high-end garments and accessories spans a century of fashion history, and it will be making its U.S. debut at the Phoenix Art Museum on September 16 through January 2. The exhibit, Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style, features more than 60 items from the fashion model-turned-collector’s couture wardrobe, including works by the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Rucci.

As one of the first internationally successful Russian supermodels, Sorokko graced the runways of major designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior within the first two weeks of her arrival in Paris in 1990. She rose right to the top of the fashion world and stayed there for more than a decade before retiring from modeling in 2001.

She has since remained a key player in the fashion world. Sorokko authored the popular monthly column “Style Fax” as a foreign correspondent for Russian Vogue, and now works as a contributing editor for Harper’s Bazaar, conducting interviews and styling photo shoots all over the world. In 2000, Vogue named Sorokko as one of the “International Top 100 Best Dressed Women”; in 2007, Harper’s Bazaar declared her one of the “Best Dressed Women of All Time.” Even off the runway, Sorokko’s presence in the fashion world has only continued to grow, along with her unique couture wardrobe.

Her collection of clothing serves not only as a historic archive, but also as a reflection of her keen eye for design, expansive knowledge and deep appreciation of the fashion industry.

Among the pieces that will be featured in the exhibit are the Vivienne Westwood gown Sorokko wore for the grand finale of Westwood’s fall/winter 1996/1997 Storm in a Teacup collection; a Jean Paul Gaultier coat with tiny sections of hand-pieced mink that form a photo-realistic image of French singer and cultural icon Édith Piaf on the back; custom-designed Manolo Blahnik shoes; an assortment of Hermés handbags; fine jewelry by Attilio Codognato; and a dress made by Sorokko herself at the age of 14. (She skipped 10 days of school to make it and used cardboard from a shoe box for the belt.)

After opening in the Russian Fashion Museum in Moscow, the supermodel’s wardrobe is making its way to Phoenix thanks to Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion and design at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sewell says she hopes Tatiana and her couture collection will bring inspiration to the desert.

“She has a really fun eye for selecting pieces,” Sewell says. “And it’s an interesting collection because she worked as a model [after being] denied the opportunity to experience individuality and fashion in her youth, and then after her [modeling] career, continued on with an involvement in fashion as a reporter and a couture client.”

The exhibition is more than a look into the closet of an international supermodel. According to Sewell, Sorokko’s timeless elegance in her choices makes Extending the Runway a glimpse into the archive of fashion itself.

“A lot of people buy clothing with the idea that it’s disposable,” Sewell says. “They’ll wear it this year, this season, a couple of times — and then that’s it. She’s collected many of these pieces over a 10 - to 20-year period, and they’re still things that she wears, and will wear and will look fashionable [in]. It’s style over trends.”

Sorokko will be hosting a number of talks and programs about fashion and her collection at the museum throughout the run of the exhibition. Visit phxart.org for more information.

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