Many people in the fashion world consider the Met Gala the Superbowl of fashion. This may be because it is the fundraising event for one of the greatest costume collections in the entire world. It could also be because its chair, Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue has turned the fundraiser from what was once just an expensive ticket to an A-List-only exclusive, blurring the lines between our love for fashion and our love for celebrity. Not only has the event become about the fashion, but perhaps more importantly who wears it…Creating nothing but a dissapointment on this year's red carpet but we will talk about that another day.
The exhibition itself is jaw dropping. I've finally gotten myself to the museum to see it in person. Described as a look into “fashion in the age of technology,” the title literally translates to the handmade (manus) and the machine made (machina). The show moves from the hand stitches of the couturiers to the invention of the sewing machine all the way to today, where we can literally print our clothing if we have the money and desire. I believe at its core, it questions what role fashion plays in our lives and culture today and how we place this point in its history as we move forward. Again something we will talk about in another post.
The star of the show for me is undoubtedly Iris van Herpen (see above and below). While the designers we know and love (McQueen, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent) serve nothing less than perfection, they do not embody the core argument of the exhibition as well as van Herpen. While there are many designers in the show that speak about where we could (and perhaps should) stand in fashion today, ie Miyake Design Studio’s sculptural pieces that can flatten down to take up no more than an inch of space or Gareth Pugh’s dresses made out of drinking straws which make a real case for reusing waste, no other designer intertwines BOTH equally weighted words in the title of the show with such formal success. It is important to note the name implies bringing the handmade into the age of the machine as an equally important part of the creative process, not posing them against one other.
On each design, the curators have carefully denoted what parts are handmade and which are machine made, emphasizing the importance of this characteristic relative to this piece’s selection for participation in the exhibition. Van Herpen’s pieces combine machine sewn with hand painted, laser cut with hand sculpted, 3D printed with hand embroidery. She gives us all that hand and machine have to offer in perfect harmony, making it forever impossible to declare one superior. Therefore just Van Herpen alone can present a completed argument to the very namesake of the exhibition.
Authors’s note: I would never count McQueen out, and were he still with us to get his hands on today’s technology; I would dare say he’d give van Herpen a run for her money.