Parachute: Subversive Fashion of the ‘80s - McCord Museum

Fashion Exhibition

Until April 24, 2022

Parachute: Subversive Fashion of the ‘80s

From its beginnings inspired by New Wave subculture to its position as a veritable international fashion sensation, the Parachute brand from Montreal was recognized from New York to Tokyo for its visionary, bold apparel and innovative concept stores. Through the exhibition Parachute: Subversive Fashion of the ‘80s, explore the history of the brand, a go-to label for stars like Madonna, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie, and relive the exuberance of the 1980s!

Admire the androgynous, avant-garde creations of Parachute and learn more about the brand through some sixty outfits, including two stage costumes from the personal collection of Peter Gabriel, over 140 archival documents (sketches, advertisements, promotional photographs and images taken in Montreal’s night clubs), as well as exclusive interviews, and video excerpts of fashion shows and concerts.

  • Bobby Sheehan, <i>Promotional photograph of John David Agosto, Amanda Coulson, Musa Jackson and unknown model in Queens, New York</i>, 1983. Lent by Nicola Pelly. © Bobby Sheehan
  • Mlle Andrée Gagné, <i>Models in early designs, photographed for Forces magazine</i>, about 1980. Lent by Nicola Pelly. © Mlle Andrée Gagné
  • Michael Flomen, <i>Promotional postcard of Maia McLean</i>, 1981, McCord Museum. Gift of Nicola Pelly. © Michael Flomen
  • Rodolf Noël, <i>Promotional photograph of Morganne Picard and unknown models in Resort 1981 collection</i>, 1981. Lent by Nicola Pelly. © Rodolf Noël
  • Jean-Claude Lussier, <i>Photographs from a fashion show created by Dick Walsh at Montreal’s Limelight nightclub</i>, March 5, 1979, 1979. Lent by Dick Walsh.
  • Albert Sanchez, <i>Models wearing the Spring-Summer 1985 collection at the 456 North Camden Drive store</i>, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, 1985. Lent by Nicola Pelly. © Albert Sanchez
  • Karin Knoblich, <i>Photographs of the 121 Wooster Street store</i>, SoHo, New York, early 1980s. Lent by Nicola Pelly. © Karin Knoblich
  • Anthony Wolfe, <i>Nicola Pelly and Harry Parnass in the Cours Mont Royal store</i>, Montreal, about 1988. Lent by Nicola Pelly. © Anthony Wolfe

Founded in Montreal in 1977 by British clothing designer Nicola Pelly and American architect and urban planner Harry Parnass, Parachute was active in the world of fashion until 1993. The brand translated the cultural anxieties of the early beginnings of the digital age into avant-garde clothing that aspired to change people’s perspectives and shake up the status quo.

Several factors contributed to the brand’s rise to global phenomenon. The exhibition explores them through five areas:

  • New Wave Beginnings recounts the early years of the brand, which was inspired by the emerging Montreal New Wave scene, when the co-founders met in the design studios of Montreal-based fashion retailer Le Château.
  • Collage & Hybrid presents Parnass and Pelly’s design techniques, a postmodern approach that synthesized sartorial references from various sources to produce challenging and contemporary silhouettes.
  • Underground Images illustrates Parachute’s striking, elegant promotional images, which solidified the brand’s subversive, avant-garde reputation while driving consumer desire.
  • Music Videos, Rock Stars and Miami Vice explores the advent of MTV, MuchMusic and Musique plus, networks which broadcast music videos 24 hours a day and had a tremendous impact on the pop culture of the 1980s. This section also references the stars who wore Parachute, including Don Johnson in Miami Vice, Michael Jackson, Madonna and the band Duran Duran.
  • The Store Experience looks at the cutting-edge Parachute concept stores, notably those in Montreal, New York City and Los Angeles, whose high-tech, industrial aesthetic, at once minimalist and grand, created unique public spaces where people could meet and be seen.

Live virtual opening of the exhibition on November 17, 2021 hosted by Geneviève Borne. With Nicola Pelly, Alexis Walker and Suzanne Sauvage.

Not to be missed!

Exhibition presented by ELLE Québec
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