Philanthropist and collector Michelle Smith was renowned for her charitable efforts and for the vision of elegance and sophistication that influenced all areas of her life. She passionately supported causes in education, culture, health, and the arts. After succeeding her father in January 2010, Smith served as president of the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, supporting nonprofit organizations, universities, and cultural institutions through fundraising and charitable giving. Smith’s commitment to sustaining and nurturing the arts is evident in her work with the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art and the Whitney Museum; she also funded arts and business programs at the University of Maryland. Smith fostered key partnerships among organizations, bringing her curated approach to life and utilizing her relationships as she served on many boards of trustees and directors, including the Aspen Institute and The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies.
Every facet of her world was shaped by refinement and beauty: at home, in art, and in fashion, and over time, through acquiring a significant collection of contemporary haute couture. Smith developed close relationships with designers, working closely with American couturier Ralph Rucci to create custom garments to her unique specifications. Rucci’s pieces featured within this collection represent some of his finest work, featuring luxury materials hand-worked in spectacular detail.
Smith’s longstanding love for Christian Dior manifests in the breadth of her collection, from a 1979 haute couture Dior wedding dress, to the playful refinement of a domino-patterned wool coat, Spring/Summer 2018. The collection features a suite of luxury furs by Ralph Rucci and J Mendel which demonstrate the extraordinary labor and craftsmanship required to create these garments. Further highlights include earlier vintage garments by Emilio Pucci and Stephen Burrows, and contemporary luxury accessories by Hermès, Bottega Veneta, and Manolo Blahnik.
The very notion of haute couture relies on the work of les petites mains, the highly skilled artisans who craft these garments in designers’ ateliers. Smith’s collecting indicates a profound attention to craftsmanship. Each of the key designers represented here are renowned for their attention to detail. The care and labor poured into each of these pieces is evident in each embroidery, appliqué, and weave. To see a collection of contemporary haute couture, so thoughtfully curated and cultivated, illustrates Michelle Smith’s pursuit of excellence, in fashion and in life.
Tuesday, Sept 21, 2021 | 11:00 am ET / 10: 00 am CT
By Appointment Only
1338 West Lake Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607
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