Just in time for the summer weather, we are starting a new series on the many ways in which a number of people here in New York are working towards a more sustainable fashion “industry.”
Mae Colburn, a writer and textiles researched based in New York is curating the series. We thought of starting close to home and thanks to my current position at Parsons we were able to get in touch with some of the most exciting researchers, designers, and educators working at the crossroads of fashion and sustainability.
It seemed like it would be an impossible task to match the Costume Institute’s McQueen blockbuster of last summer with an equaling compelling and aesthetically engaging display. Nonetheless, curators Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda achieved the impossible in their latest exhibition called Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations. In this witty and provocative installation, they have set a new bar for curation of fashion by their creative use of technology and their innovative juxtaposition of fashion from the past and the present.
Waist Up - Waist Down Gallery
Although Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) and Miuccia Prada (b. 1949) came from different eras, they both challenged cultural norms and expressed their unconventional ideas about beauty and femininity through fashion. Koda and Bolton developed themes that reflected the two women’s shared interests and visual aesthetics, but also identified their different approaches to design by creating imagined conversations between the two designers. It is in this novel approach to animating the exhibition, which reminds us that garments reflect the ideas and attitudes of their creators and are designed for living bodies.
Surreal Body Gallery
Taking inspiration from Miguel Covarrubias’s “Impossible Interviews” for Vanity Fair in 1930s, the imagined conversations are presented in the context of a dinner party with Miuccia Prada sitting at one end of the dining table and Elsa Schiaparelli at the other. The script for their conversations was developed from the text from the 1950s autobiography by Schiaparelli and from interviews with Prada that suggest a real-time response. Schiaparelli’s part is played by an actress and Prada responds as herself. Their imagined conversations seem like good-natured arguments between two friends, infusing the installation with whimsy and a cheeky playfulness.
The exhibition has a modernist, clean aesthetic and includes ninety designs and thirty accessories from the two designers. In general, the rooms are dark putting a spotlight on the video presentations, and creating focal points through selective lighting of the outfits on display. Mannequins act as blank canvases for the garments and are organized in thematic groupings of Waist Up/Waist Down, Hard Chic, Ugly Chic, Naif Chic, and aspects of the Dressed Body. There is an aesthetic coherence to the four rooms, providing a unifying element for what could easily have become a chaotic mess without the tight editing and restraint that Koda and Bolton have demonstrated in this visually appealing installation. Although Schiaparelli’s lobster dress and skeleton dress are not on display, the exhibition cleverly makes reference to these iconic garments and conveys the whimsy, irony and unconventional nature of these important designers.
Exotic Gallery View
In another stroke of brilliance, the curators commissioned Guido Palau to make customized masks for the mannequins. These masks, each unique and exquisitely embellished, add an element of surreal fantasy to the display, as well as unifying the presentation. These masks often play off the design elements within the garments themselves. For example the mask accompanying the gown for the Tear Dress, 1938 by Schiaparelli and Dali, includes a Dali moustache.
Naif Chic Gallery View
As a whole, the exhibition gives the viewer cause to consider the nature of fashion and art. At the press preview Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said “Schiaparelli’s collaborations with Dali and Cocteau as well as Prada’s Fondazione Prada push art and fashion ever closer, in a direct, synergistic, and culturally redefining relationship.” There are also direct references to the two designer’s opinions on the topic and it is clear that this is a point of difference between the two. In the Ugly Chic gallery, Schiaparelli said: “Dress designing…is to me not a profession but an art.” To this Prada responded: “Dress designing is creative, but it is not an art…. But to be honest, whether fashion is art or whether even art is art doesn’t really interest me. Maybe nothing is art. Who cares!” The exhibition closes with an animated conversation between Prada and Schiaparelli on the nature of fashion and art, in which the designers conclude by agreeing to disagree. This part of the exhibition caused me to smile. It seemed to provide another connection to my interest in the intersection of fashion and art, and I recalled my conversations with Harold Koda and other curators on this topic. Imagining my own conversation with Miuccia Prada, I would have suggested to her that instead of “Maybe nothing is art”, maybe everything is or could be art. To that, no doubt she would have responded like she did in the installation: “The term [artist] itself seems old-fashioned. It’s a term that does not relate to modern times. And it’s too confining. What I love about fashion is its accessibility and its democracy. Everyone wears it, and everyone relates to it.” And on that point, we would have agreed.
Prada and Schiaparelli: Impossible Conversationsopens to the public at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 10, 2012 and will run until August 19, 2012.
Photo credits: All photos provided courtesy of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and are subject to copyright.
Ingrid Mida is a Toronto-based artist and writer who is interested in the intersections between fashion, art and history. She has a show called “Constructions of Femininity” opening at Loop Gallery in Toronto on May 26, 2012 and will be speaking at Fashion Tales 2012 in Milan in June 2012 on “The Metaphysics of Blogging”.
Next Tuesday May 15 I will participate in a panel in conjunction with the exhibition “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute. The panel Defining Chic: Then & Now is moderated by Julie Gilhart (fashion consultant) with Leandra Medine (The Man Repeller), Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist), and Lynn Yaeger (Vogue.com Contributing Editor).
During the Salone del Mobile 2012 (Milan Design Week 16-22 April) la Rinascente, Milan’s most fashionable department store, is hosting ‘Hacked – Rebellious Imagination’(16-21 April). For those who don’t know already, hacking is a growing global movement, predicated on modification and customization. It’s about taking what exists and altering it in ways that create unexpected, dramatic or playful narratives. Hacking history draws on elements of Bauhaus, DIY, Arte Povera and Punk, combining it all with the excitement of new technology.
Over the course of 100 hours laRinascente has been radically altered inside and out to become an interactive expermental lab space. Following a contemporary concept of appropriation, alteration and transformation which pervades art, design, web and technology, Hacked is an experimental programme curated by Beatrice Galilee which includes live activities and events, installations, performances and workshops. Temporary, site-specific works by artists, architects and designers include a monumental hack of t laRinascente colonnaded façade by CarmodyGroarke; a flexible, movable ‘HackedLab’ stage by EXYZT; and – very briefly – a scale model of Large Hadron Collider.
The hacked lab programme is intended to provide a platform for young designers whose work exists outside of the parameters of conventional exhibition-objects and across various disciplines. One of the most interesting installation staged by EXYZT is TAP TAP, an installation inspired by the ‘Taxi Bush’ – the Haitian taxi, famed for their beautifully decorated exteriors, set up by Alexander Romer, a berlinese architect based in Paris. TAP TAP is a van organized into a modular system that, after its first stop at laRinascente will travel around Italy, promoting performance and participation from the public. The first opening event of Hacked on Monday, Botanica, the workshop from Studioformafantasma has taken place into this TAP TAP van and is a homage to plastic and its future.
laRinascente has long been known for promoting new designers in Milan.
Promoting new designers has long been one of laRinascente’s main aims. Hacked celebrates brilliantly the store’s 150 years of activities and its strategy for the future. Tiziana Cardini fashion director, commented that laRinascente wants to give to young designers the possibility to experiment with new ways of conceiving a product – no only for its functionality only, but also for its quality of participation, expression and performance. As Beatrice Galilee stressed, Hacking is about building bridges between different industries: design, architecture, fashion, art and performance. It also raises questions about creativity, independent design and the relations with mainstream consumer culture.
I have interviewed for Fashion Projects both Beatrice Galilee, the curator of the event and Tiziana Cardini, laRinascente fashion director.
Simona Segre Reinach is Contract Professor at Bologna University, Italy. She also teaches at Domus Academy and MFI (Milan Fashion Institute). She is in the advisory board of Fashion Theory and of Dress Cultures Series by I. B.Tauris and a member of MIC (Moda Immagine Consumi) a center for Fashion Studies at Università Statale of Milan. Her latest book, Un mondo di mode. Il vestire globalizzato, is published by Laterza (2011).
SSR In which ways did Milan Design Week and la Rinascente inspire your project Hacked?
BG This is my first time working in a shopping mall, and I found a lot of enthusiasm from the people here in Milan. The shopping mall is an exciting place to involve people in the events, which is exactly what ‘hacking’ is about. For me, having to organize so many events, three times a day for the duration of the Milan Design Week is, of course, both challenging and inspiring.
I particularly liked the idea of working during the Salone del Mobile (Design Week) because people come in person to the Salone. They want to be present. People make reservations, buy train and air tickets, they like to really participate in the event. I like the idea of people wanting to be there and to do things. We devote one of the days of the Design Week to laRinascente customers and to the people who will call, everybody is invited to participate. Performances such as ‘make your own thirsty plant detector’ and ‘build your own musical instrument’ are examples of design participation and creative experiments.
SSR What’s the relation beteween art, design and fashion nowadays?
BG They are all cultural fields although they involve different roles. But they have a lot of things in common too, interesting forms of collaborations between art, design and fashion are emerging – nowadays it is really about exploring boundaries among different fields. Artists, architects, fashion designers and designers are influenced by each other more and more.
SSR Is hacked somehow questioning also the concept of copyright? Is there any difference between design and fashion concerning copyright (as in fashion you can protect a logo/brand but you cannot protect a style)?
BG This is an interesting question. I think that copyright is becoming less and less important. The whole idea of Author with a capital A is undergoing severe change, challenged by the very act of the creative process. Products are becoming a completely open source. In a way this is liberatory, but, of course, it entails a lot of changes in the way we think about design. The relation between author, producer and buyer (consumer) is no longer a neatly separate one, but there is continuous interchange between these three elements of the process. Traditional authorship of course still exists, I would say it runs in parallel with these new forms of creativity in which the roles are constantly redefined, to set a new form of commerce and patronage. Take for example kickstarter.com – it is an interesting platform devoted to all new ways of funding and following creativity. You can design a dress and then find somebody there who can create it according to your and his or her ideas about making and distributing. You customize the ways in which you can put that dress on the market. For a new generation of designers, the idea of a ‘product’ to be manufactured, distributed and sold in the traditional way is no longer interesting. Using hacking, strategy, fiction, technology, science, performance, play and collaboration as tools of their trade, collections of emerging agents of design have demonstrated a different way to exhibit and experience contemporary design.
SSR La Rinascente has often hosted events during the Salone del Mobile of Milan. This year it looks as if you want to be more involved in the actual co-production of an event. How did this develop ?
TC: This is the first time laRinascente is totally in charge of a big event. Before we just had partnerships with the likes of Interni.This time we thought that the time was right, we were ready to be part of the excitement of the city during the Salone. We have a strong heritage of relationships with the Milanese designers starting with the 50s and 60s Compassodoro and we have worked in the past with big talents like Bruno Munari, Gio Ponti etc.
SSR: Why hack?
TC: We wanted to choose a concept which crosses art, design and technology and is part of the language of design today and could be understood by today’s design community. It is also a concept that is very of the moment for the artistic community in general. Transforming a reality into something else. It’s a tool. A way of being in a relationship with the creative process.
SSR: Why Beatrice Galilee?
TC: Because she is one of the coolest and most relevant young curators today. She has a great knowledge about today’s trends and design, not to mention she’s very well connected within the design community.
SSR It is a shared idea that the Salone del Mobile (and more generally design) is an open system, which endorses participation from the public – whereas the fashion weeks are the very opposite: elitarian and selfcontained. Is the Hacked event meant to bridge/connect the two worlds – fashion and design –both very well represented at la Rinascente?
TC: No, not really. We wanted to do something really specific about the process of creating design. And we wanted to do something where people can really participate. We weren’t really thinking about working on a different scale, or creating a new relationship with fashion. That wasn’t the aim.
SSR: What does such an event mean for la Rinascente?
Tuesday April 17th, I am chairing a panel on curation at Parsons the New School for Design. I hope you will be able to attend!
Focusing on curatorial practices that do not fit neatly within discreet categories of fashion, art, and design, the roundtable discusses the process of curation across a variety of platforms and disciplines, from the three-dimensional spaces of museums to the pages of magazines and from the public sphere to online platforms. The panel investigates how the meaning of curation has drastically changed: How the term “curator” went from identifying the keeper of a collection to describing a wider range of activities across a variety of sites. Borrowing W.T. Mitchell’s concept of “indiscipline”—“a moment of breakage or rupture”—it seeks to show how these shifts have occurred across disciplinary boundaries and have questioned such boundaries in the process.
The roundtable participants include Harold Koda (Curator-in-Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Sarah Lawrence (an academic curator and dean of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons the New School for Design), and Sabrina Gschwandtner (a New York–based artist, writer and curator). It is chaired by Francesca Granata, Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies in the School of Art and Design History and Theory.
The panel takes place on April 17th from 6:30–8:00pm in the Kellen Auditorium at 66 Fifth Avenue (at 12th street). The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.
A favorite look from Titania Inglis’ F/W 2012 collection. Photographer: Dan Lecca
Fashion Projects has been a fan of Titania Inglis ever since she launched her eponymous label a few years ago, so it was such great news to hear that she had won the 2012 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for Sustainable Design. While I initially thought of Inglis as an “eco” designer, it quickly became apparent that the term “eco” was simply too reductive for her design philosophy. For her, sustainability is not a gimmick, or just about sourcing yet another ecotextile. Rather, she is moving towards a concept of sustainability that emphasizes longevity, quality, and thoughtfulness. We are very pleased to present this interview with Inglis, coming on the heels of her recent F/W 2012 fashion presentation at Eyebeam.
Fashion Projects: Congratulations on your recent Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for Sustainable Design. How has winning the award affected your business?
Titania Inglis: Thank you! Receiving the Ecco Domani award is such a dream come true — I didn’t believe it at first when I received the email telling me I’d won. It’s opened a lot of doors for me already within the fashion industry, and I was able to put together an incredible team for my show this season, including stylist Christian Stroble, makeup artist Lisa Aharon and hairstylist Ramona Eschbach, photographer Aliya Naumoff, set designer Ryan Crozier of Forgotten City — and collaborating on a series of leather body accessories with Bliss Lau, a designer whose innovative work I’ve admired for years.
Leigh Bowery at the 1994 Lucian Freud Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
This Thursday, January 26, I am giving a talk titled “Fashioning the Grotesque Body,” at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, in which I will discuss the work of Leigh Bowery and Rei Kawakubo. The talk, which is taking place in conjunction with the exhibition Textility, is free and open to the public. Below is some more information on the center and the talk:
“The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will feature Francesca Granata, ADHT Professor of Fashion Studies, in their Spring 2012 season of Thursday Evening Salon Series on January 26. The series, now in its fifth season, functions as a forum for current topics in the arts, humanities and the social sciences with artists, curators, philosophers and writers.
Dr. Granata’s discussion, called “Fashioning the Grotesque Body,” will focus on the proliferation of grotesque images of the body within contemporary fashion and will explore the link between art and fashion through the work of experimental designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons to the designer and performance artist Leigh Bowery.”
Thursday Evening Salon Series
Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
Spring 2012 Season: January 12-May 17
68 Elm Street, Summit, NJ
Free to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are required.
Fashion Projects began in New York in 2004, with the aim to create a platform to highlight the importance of fashion — especially “experimental” fashion — within current critical discourses. Through interviews with a range of artists, designers, writers and curators, as well as through other planned projects and exhibits, we hope to foster a dialogue between theory and practice across disciplines.
We are primarily a print journal, however we also publish web-based updates and interviews (a “digest” version of which you can receive by signing up to our mailing list or via our RSS feed) and are currently working on exhibits based on past and future issues. To order any of our issues visit our ordering page.
We are a nonprofit organization, which has previously received grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
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