Saturday, 2 July 2016

Fashion and Design, Handmade and Machine

A Dior dress on the left, Alexander McQueen on right
Today I went to see the annual fashion-related exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This year it's called "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an age of Technology". It showcases handmade clothes and those made by machine, from the 1920s until today.

They were divided into different sections focusing on lace, sequins, artificial flowers, feathers and beading, presented in a white austere looking room with mini arches that almost had a religious feeling, like worshipping the best of fashion.

Gareth Pugh's outfit made with sraws
Some had interesting juxtapositions, like a 1920s Chanel sequinned evening dress, and then two others of similar styles but from the 1990s and 2000s next to it to show how technology has enabled designers to make 3-D printed outfits.

There were some outfits that were totally out there -- like a dress made completely of black drinking straws that were individually hand sewn onto the fabric. Another was a black dress that had white delicate tulip-like flowers coming out of the dress and the edges of the petals connected with each other to create a kind of bubble over the black dress.

Admittedly I preferred many of the older designs, that were so elegant and stylish even today, while the newer ones seemed to be only made possible with technology, or used it to prove how far they could go in pushing design forward.

Many brand names were featured, from Chanel and Dior to Alexander McQueen, Prada and Yoji Yamamoto. There were a few Chanel wedding dresses designed by Karl Lagerfeld, one a winter dress that was covered in white sequins and camelias.

Ethereal wedding dress from Chanel
The highlight of the show was another wedding dress designed by Lagerfeld with a very long 20-foot-train covered in the most intricate beading with sequins and pearls in a computer-generated design, while the dress itself is relatively simple. My friend said it was the perfect outfit to wear for your coronation.

While we liked the outfits, and how they were put together, the atmosphere didn't encourage people to celebrate and have fun with the fashion. Instead it just felt very serious and almost austere.

What a pity, with such gorgeous clothes, to not be warm and inviting, and inspire the next generation of designers to push boundaries even further.

I missed last year's exhibition that was fashion inspired by China that I heard was a very good show, but my yardstick is the Alexander McQueen one that fascinated and amazed us with his creativity and innovation.

Avant garde Iris van Herpen
Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology
Until August 14
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York
Tel: (212) 535 7710

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