A two-part exhibition brings fashion designer Geoffrey Beene’s work home to Louisiana

Throughout his life and landmark career, Haynesville, Louisiana, native and renowned fashion designer Geoffrey Beene often called back to his southern roots. From gingham and seersucker to magnolias and camellias, Beene’s work, especially under the firm he established under his own name in 1963, came alive through his visionary eye. Today, many of his garments are on view in his home state in exhibitions at the LSU Museum of Art and the LSU Textile and Costume Museum.

Titled Coming Home: Geoffrey Beene—Southern Reflections, the two-part exhibition pulls from the collection of Sylvia R. Karasu, which includes some 254 pieces ranging from everyday wear to evening gowns. Twenty-four garments are on display at the LSU Museum of Art through August 30. And through January 2025, the LSU Textile and Costume Museum will display 50 of his most iconic looks.

Learn more about the exhibit below from Michael Mamp, Director and Curator of the LSU Textile & Costume Museum.

Cocktail dress (detail), c. 1980s, by Geoffrey Beene. Halter-neck dress of persimmon and cream floral-printed linen, sequined midriff, with bead-encrusted buttons; lined in silk, gift of Sylvia Karasu, M.D. on a Beene showroom dress form, c. 2000. Photo by Kevin Duffy

How was this exhibition chosen?

For two main reasons.

Back in the fall of 2022, we were fortunate enough to receive a gift of over 250 garments designed by Geoffrey Beene, dating in range from his early start to his late career. Every piece came from one generous donor: Sylvia R. Karasu M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City who has been collecting and wearing Beene’s pieces since 1991. Because of Dr. Karasu, we’re now one of the largest archives of Mr. Beene fashion in the world. We’ve spent the last year and a half planning this 2024 exhibition, which is also the year that Beene would’ve had his 100th birthday.

The second reason is because Mr. Beene is originally from Haynesville, Louisiana, which is why the exhibit is titled Coming Home: Geoffrey Beene – Southern Reflections. We’re celebrating his long-standing legacy here in his home state.

How has Geoffrey Beene’s legacy impacted Louisiana?

Mr. Beene is one of–if not the–most famous fashion designer from Louisiana. He was a Southern gentleman at his core, and this is reflected throughout his collections. You can tell that Louisiana was always in his heart when he was designing, and he represented our state very well.

He proved that someone from humble beginnings in a small Louisiana town could not only compete in the New York fashion world, but dominate it.

Do you have a favorite piece from the exhibit?

These two gowns (below) are my favorite pieces from the show. Both are evening gowns with incredible attention to detail. The pink plaid and black sequin gown is from the late 1980s, and the gown on the right is from the 1990s, both made with beautiful fabrics and finished with impeccable craftsmanship.

These gowns are a great representation of how he could be extremely elegant and elevated in his work but have them still be wearable and timeless. The dress on the right features tropical flowers which is a nod to the south, and it’s one I can see someone still wearing today–even though it’s over 20 years old.

For more information about the exhibitions, click here.

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