NEW YORK – Renowned designers and brands that have marked American fashion are celebrated in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in a yearlong exhibition. Already in the midst of the display, Upper East Side’s institution has hit refresh on part one, ‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’ setting emphasis on the here and now.
In this new spin, designs of around 35 designers have entered the game, replacing seventy percent of the 100 pieces. Although a second alternation on the exhibition was originally intended, no one could have predicted Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Keeping in mind the drastic cultural shifts the world is facing, museum curator in charge, Andrew Bolton from the UK, explained that part of the reasoning behind the switch was to create “a living exhibition that could respond to not just conversations and the current debates within fashion, but broader ones culturally,” as reported in WWD.
As an act of empathy to the war in Ukraine, a dress by Ukrainian designer Valentina Sanina Schlee, will be added to the Anna Wintour Costume Center later in the year. “Fashion is the only art form that can respond so quickly and so directly to the times in which we’re living because of the ephemerality of fashion. Sometimes it’s done more deliberately in response to what’s going on, and other times it’s more subtle, tapping into the collective consciousness,” Bolton said.
The showcase reflects a not-so-distant past, as one of the main pieces in view was inspired by last year’s Met Gala, specifically Eli Russell Linnetz’ reprocessed bubble wrap coat worn by A$AP Rocky. A puff quilt thrift store catch combined with boxer shorts and a bathrobe was enough to make the piece a red-carpet favorite. Linnetz’ reinvention was defined by sustainability and diversity as expressed by the world of social media.
A mastermind of the Italian-based brand Louis Vuitton, the late Virgil Abloh, left his mark in the fashion industry as the initiator of Off-White. Visitors of the exhibition will witness one of Abloh’s creations at the foot of the stairs into the main gallery. The beautifully white cotton knitted, and off-white silk gown was to be featured in ‘Part Two: In America: An Anthology of Fashion,’ but Abloh’s sudden death in November at the age of 41 urged The Met to feature it sooner. The beauty and brutality of cotton production and processing are mirrored through this piece from the 19th century to today.
The sprawling skirt of Abloh’s gown features blue graffiti reading ‘Verg’, conveying ‘Fragility’, one of the exhibition’s 12 predominant themes. Each piece of apparel on display also has a word label headpiece that comes with it designed by Stephen Jones, following a definition.
“I’ve always felt that fashion is so central to our lives, but that centrality is becoming so globalized. There is this incredible hunger for fashion because the speed of fashion has become so much more accelerated, and the production of fashion, in terms of what’s expected from designers right now – cruise collections, fall collections…the expectation to deliver constantly is huge. That’s also being partly fed by people’s consumption of fashion and their interest in fashion,” Bolton said.
Artistry merged with the power of language are the building blocks of this exhibition. With the goal to attract as many museum visitors as possible, the Met’s Costume Institute chose to showcase well-known and heavily followed designers as well as our of curiosity over less known ones. This pattern seems to reflect that of Instagram as mentioned by the museum’s lead sponsor.
Bolton said “I never thought about that, but it is a bit like that – the immediacy of Instagram. Again, that does reflect fashion. Fashion has always been immediate. Its strength, and sometimes its weakness, is its immediacy and accessibility. That’s always been the case and certainly more with social media. There is a certain democratization that’s happening because of social media.”
Part two of the project, ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion’ plans to open in May with eight film directors – Martin Scorsese, Sophia Coppola, Chloé Zhao, Regina King, and Tom Ford among them. In this setting, the foundations of American fashion will be addressed spanning from the 19th to mid-late 20th century. The American Wing rooms will present staged conceptualized narratives that reflect mise-en-scènes of that time.
Both parts of the exhibition will end on September 5.