[Exhibit] The Costume Institute’s: ‘Manus X Machina’

The Met's next fashion exhibit will seek to reconcile the oppositional relationship between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina).

The Met’s next fashion exhibit will seek to reconcile the oppositional relationship between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina).

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s  press preview for the Costume Institute’s upcoming exhibit, “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” head curator Andrew Bolton touched on the traditionally dichotomous relationship between the handmade and machine-made in fashion, and the blurring of the two disciplines in the creation of haute couture and ready-to-wear.

Bolton started off by noting that since the birth of haute couture in the 19th century, the hand and the machine had been constructed as “discordant instruments of the creative process,” with the former seen as a symbol of “detrimental nostalgia” by its opponents, and the latter as a symbol of inferiority and dehumanization. With this exhibit, which opens in May, the Costume Institute hopes to “suggest a spectrum of practices whereby the hand and the machine are mutual protagonists in solving design problems.”

[L to R] Chanel Haute Couture Suit 63-68, Chanel Haute Couture wedding ensemble F/W 2014-2015

[L to R] Chanel Haute Couture Suit 63-68, Chanel Haute Couture wedding ensemble F/W 2014-2015

To that end, the exhibit will feature more than 100 pieces of haute couture and ready-to-wear, to be shown at both the Robert Lehman Collection galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries. The latter will focus more on the traditional aspects of haute couture, and will resemble a traditional maison de couture, while the former will present a series of case studies, “unraveling the mythologies of the hand/machine conundrum.” Traditional métiers of haute couture, such as embroidery and featherwork, will be presented alongside innovative techniques like 3-D printing and computer modeling.

YSL Couture evening dress F/W 69-70

YSL Couture evening dress F/W 69-70

Some items at the press preview included: a machine-sewn, hand-finished white synthetic scuba knit Chanel haute couture wedding ensemble, which, according to Bolton, served as the inspiration for the exhibit; an Iris van Herpen haute couture dress with hand-stitched strips of laser-cut silicone features and hand-applied gull skulls; and a Chanel haute couture suit with 3-D printed white polyamide overlay.

[L to R] Iris van Herpen couture dress F/W 2010, Iris van Herpen couture dress F/W 2013-2014

[L to R] Iris van Herpen couture dress F/W 2010, Iris van Herpen couture dress F/W 2013-2014

The exhibit will run from May 5 to Aug. 14, and designers in the exhibit will include Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Alber Elbaz, Karl LagerfeldIris van HerpenRei Kawakubo, Raf Simons, Miuccia Prada, Christopher Kane and more.

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[Runway] Top 5 Menswear Shows F/W ’16

“Fashion reflects. It responds to its environment. Check the headlines, there’s darkness at the edge of town, and protection against that darkness is critical,” wrote Tim Blanks in London at the beginning of the Autumn/Winter 2016 menswear season. Indeed, designers’ pre-occupation with our troubled and uncertain times set the prevailing mood of the season.

The threat of widespread war, a global refugee crisis, a shaky global economy, the continued rise of religious extremism, increasing inequality and the spectre of ecological horrors — these strands of sadness and worry appeared in ways big and small on catwalks across London, Milan and Paris.

Largely, designers fell into two camps. There were those who offered protection, sometimes drawing on miltary themes. And there were others, who, like in 1930s Berlin, sought solace in pure escapism, which sometimes took a hyper-decorative even bacchanalian bent. Despite such a troubling context, a number of designers showed their prodigious skill, reflecting the times we live in with unfettered and powerful creativity.

 1. Raf Simons – designed by Raf Simons

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Raf Simons presentation stepped fearlessly through David Lynch’s nightmarish mirror of apple-pie Americana. Nightmares and Dreams he called it, and it was a brilliant, disturbing descent into a world where imperfections ruled, where youthful idealism had been literally destroyed, where the woods were dark and full of danger.

2. Dries Van Noten – designed by Dries Van Noten

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For his collections, Van Noten has the deep reservoir of his own past to draw on, and he revisited it persuasively. The oversized 1940s-style suits were a reminder that, of all the designers who ever drew inspiration from David Bowie, his fandom was the most convincing.

3. Alexander McQueen – designed by Sarah Burton

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Historicism, romance and science: these were always ingredients in the heady McQueen stew, and it was reassuring to see them make such a strong comeback after Spring’s irresolute offering. The silhouettes were clear and classic, with the incontrovertible masculine edge only a military influence can bring: suits single- and double-breasted suits, trenches, greatcoats, a regimental-red cadet’s jacket.There were plenty of darkly alluring flourishes, like the band of chiffon that edged a soft-shouldered coat, the tulle-shrouded moths embroidered tone on tone on a pinstripe suit, or the silver chain harness of crosses and pearls that anchored a white silk tunic.

4. Louis Vuitton  – designed by Kim Jones

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The collection had an undertow of dark allure, ably assisted by its lushly sombre colour palette and its striking casting. Many of the models looked like they could have been White Russian princelings in another life, washing up in Paris on a wave of revolution at home. They had clothes and accessories to match: dandy tailoring, languid jersey overcoats, and trench-coats belted with fur, ravishing shearlings, silver necklaces, and a whole history-book of Jade Jagger designed charms studding the silk scarves that wrapped their throats. Jones’ Paris was romantic, infused with the spirit of the artists, aesthetes and aristocrats in exile who fed the city’s creative fervour over the past century. The ghost of Cocteau hovered in the scribbles on silk shirts. The artful use of old trunk stamps as new branding was a reminder of the romance of travel that has always been LV’s calling card.

5. Ermenegildo Zegna – designed by Stefano Pilati

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Stefano Pilati’s signatures were on parade this season at Ermenegildo Zegna Couture. His knack for defusing formality, for instance, most obvious with the broken suit, but he’ll also attach a drawstring waist to a pair of pinstripe trousers. Playing with volumes, as with trousers whose bagginess was spotlighted by deep pleats. The Zegna mills showed form with muted but plush jacquards, woven in patterns that were reminiscent of mosaics and tapestries. They were carried over into the footwear, micro-perforated in swirling patterns. But at the same time, there’d be a quilted bomber in recycled polyester, a reminder of the house’s facility with fabric technology. Elegance is a constant.

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