The Costume Institute’s spring 2016 exhibition explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.
With more than 170 ensembles dating from the early 20th century to the present, the exhibition addresses the founding of the haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of mass production. It explores this ongoing dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process, and questions the relationship and distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear.
The Robert Lehman Wing galleries, on the Museum’s first floor and ground level, have been transformed into a building-within-a-building using white scrims. The space houses a series of case studies in which haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles are decoded to reveal their hand/machine DNA. A 2014 haute couture wedding dress by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel with a 20-foot train occupies a central cocoon, with details of its embroidery projected onto the domed ceiling. The scuba knit ensemble, one of the inspirations for the exhibition, stands as a superlative example of the confluence between the handmade and the machine-made–the pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones.
I spotted lots of 3D printed and laser cut pieces throughout the exhibit and even a remote controlled dress! Check out some photos that I took below.
Hussein Chalayan had a lot of pieces in the exhibit which makes sense because he tends towards unusual and innovative styles. Above is the “Kaikoku” floating dress from his Autumn/winter 2011-12 collection. The video below shows the dress in action around the 2 minute mark.
Below are a few more dresses from Hussein Chalayan that were molded from polyurethane foam and below that is his “Remote Control” dress and a video showing how it works.
Iris Van Herpen, who we have covered on the blog a bunch of times, had a bunch of pieces in the exhibit as well. The dress below has silicone-coated gull skulls in the shoulders!
More from Iris Van Herpen, including some laser cut and 3D printed pieces:
Speaking of 3D printing, there were a lot of 3D printed dresses in the exhibit and even some 3D printed accessories for sale in the gift shop! (They were a bit overpriced in my opinion)
Below are 3D printed pieces by Israeli designer Noa Raviv.
Some 3D printed suits from House of Chanel:
Karl Lagerfeld says of the above pieces “It’s the perfect marriage of the hand and the machine…It’s the mis that is interesting. Just using one of the other is very dull. Fashion is about today. What keeps the haute couture alive is to move with the times. If it stays in an ivory tower, like Sleeping Beauty in the woods, you can forget it.”
Below are more 3D printed ensembles by threeASFOUR and Proenza Schouler
There were lots of other gorgeous (and some not so gorgeous) pieces in the exhibit so if you are in the NYC area I would highly recommend checking it out!
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