THE FIRST PROOF
Every experience has a visual and experiential representation through photography, illustration, product, video, digital, and physical environments. THE FIRST PROOF is another look at the formation of these experiences, focusing equally on creation and creator. It serves as an analysis of the creative inputs and outputs, and its influence.

Observations on fashion, art, design, and creativity. 

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Friday
May062016

Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology at the The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

The Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute's Spring 2016 show titled Manus X Machina opened this week. As described, the show "will explore how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear." - metmuseum.org

Technique divides the show into themes then juxtapose examples of how each has evolved regarding hand or machine made processes. Some subjects covered are embroidery, featherwork, pleating, lace, and leatherwork and each represented by a grouping of related designs that range from 1960s Hubert de Givenchy to the recent creations by Iris van Herpen. There is also accompanying commentary from designers on how a garment was created or their point of view on the matter. Neither one wins out as each piece in the 170 displayed stands on its own in technical achievement. Whether 3D printing or hand pleating, the results are still spectacular. In one quote Nicolas Ghuesquiere states "whether to use the hand or the machine is never completely apparent...Your decision has to be informed. It's not simply the choice of one or the other. I think it is an exciting part of the process, not knowing how you will execute a garment until it says, this is right for now. This is what fashion feels like at the moment."

 
Unlike last year's China: Through the Looking Glass, there is no larger scenarios or theatrics. Reminiscent of the Charles James show, Manus X Machina is a much quieter exhibit as the subject matter requires observation of detail and construction. Whether the viewer understands what is in front of them, they will appreciate that there is more to fashion than the glitzy event that it has become today. The audience will want to get as close to each display to understand a level of artistry often overshadowed by fashion week and red carpet dramatics. 
 
Apple, the show sponsor and partner, could have been better leveraged. With detail and construction being so critical to comprehending the complexity of each garment, there is not much in any accompanying experience to better educate the audience. During a time when augmented and virtual reality are becoming more commonplace, Manus X Machina could have benefited from implementing these to tell a better story. Imagine if the visitor's devices were used to highlight more details, closeups, specific innovations. Even the Charles James show had kiosks that dissected the layers of construction that aren't apparent. For this reason, the book is an exceptional resource rich in detail shots and information regarding fabrication.
 
Hussein Chalayan Kaikoku Floating Dress, fiberglass.

 Iris Van Herpen 

  Iris Van Herpen 

 Iris Van Herpen 

 

In conjunction with the exhibit, the documentary The First Monday in May was released revealing the preparation that is required to bring together these endeavors. The film goes through Andrew Bolton's (the Costume Institute's head curator) journey and some of the challenges that he faced when preparing last year's exhibit, pondering the question whether fashion should be considered art. Much like Grace Coddington in The September Issue, Mr. Bolton is the heart of the story. His attention to detail and determination to fulfill his vision is undeniable. There may be a disservice that the film can create - the expectation that Manus X Machina will match the China exhibition in the spectacle. They are two very different shows and stories, and Manus X Machina that will appeal to those who love the craft and not the frenzy that currently surrounds fashion.

Listen to Andrew Bolton's Apple playlist inspired by the exhibit.

Manus x Machina runs to Aug. 14 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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