Fashion spins at a fast rhythm nowadays, mutating from season to season, thanks to technological advances, innovative materials and new ways to present the collections. Yet, for the time being, we aren't still capable of telling for sure what the future of fashion will be like.
At the moment the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam is exploring this issue via a recently opened exhibition (until 18th January 2015), but, if you can't go, getting the catalogue (published by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) may provide an insight on innovative trends, techniques and designers.
The book opens with an introduction by Dutch Han Nefkens. The art and fashion collector and patron recounts how he decided to start investigating fashion after spotting at an International AIDS Conference in Bangkok designs made with condoms by Brazilian artist Adriana Bertini. Nefkens developed with José Teunissen, fashion curator at the Central Museum in Utrecht, further researches that brought them to "The Art of Fashion" event in 2010. Three years later Nefkens and Teunissen set on working on "The Future of Fashion is Now" exhibit and in spotting new visual languages and forms.
The catalogue describes their discoveries by following the divisions into different sections applied in the actual exhibition – Materiality and Experience, The (Re) Definition of the Human Figure, New Values and New Stories, and Fashion Activism: Community and Politics.
Construction and craftsmanship are explored by looking at pieces by Martin Margiela, Rejina Pyo and Pauline van Dongen among the others, but there are good insights into the innovations brought in by Anrealage, the installations of Christoph Broich, Carole Collet's experimental biolace, Ying Gao's interactive garments, Mason Jung's clever menswear pieces, and Pia Interlandi's researches on burial garments. Among the highlights of this section there are Helen Storey's installations featuring dresses that dissolve when hung in a large dish bowl filled with water, but also the astonishing garments by Wang Lei, knitted from toilet paper, or his "dragon gowns" made by knitting the pages of a Chinese-English dictionary.
The theme of exploring the shape and silhouette of the human body in relationship with the space surrounding it, is approached via Comme des Garçons's body shaping and morphing silhouettes, Hussein Chalayan's "Laser Dress", Pyuupiru's hand-knitted monster-like creations addressing identity, Antoine Peters' surreal and pop pieces, Si Chan's "Hug Me" collection tackling loneliness and isolation, Movana Chen's hand-knitted cocooning body containers made with magazines or maps, Birgit Dieker's sculptures of layered fabrics and Forrest Jessee's wearable architectural project "Sleep Suit".
Readers interested in the process of redefining the fashion system will find more interesting the section on designers commenting upon the industry through their creation processes or attempting to break the boundaries between various disciplines through pieces suspended between art and fashion. The chapter opens with Viktor & Rolf, and looks at Christophe Coppens transition from fashion designer to ceramic artist; Hefin Jones' futuristic project involving Welsh craftspeople; Aliki van der Kruijs' experimental scarves characterised by a pattern created when falling rain touches the water-sensitive ink; Lara Torres' invisible wardrobes and Adele Varcoe's performances prompting her audiences to react at the invisible Chanel creations donned by her naked models.
The fourth and final part of the exhibition/catalogue is probably the best one as it is dedicated to the role of clothing in society and at projects that address particularly sensitive issues or that do have an impact on society. Lucy + Jorge Orta's Nexus Architecture looks at conformity and individuality criticising today's anonymous urban culture, while Tania Candiani's thirty dresses made in a former textile factory over one month represent a personal diary and an archeology of the history of the factory and of its workers.
The exhibition also features a few intriguing photographers: Phyllis Galembo's images look at the power of religious clothing in ritual performances in South America and Africa and they are particularly mesmerising as the photographer usually asks permission to the spirit of the ancestors taking possession of the body of the wearers before taking pictures; Hassan Hajjaj's pictures bridge instead the gap between the East and the West in a visually enticing way, mixing traditional Moroccan attire with logos of Western brands.
There is a special focus in the catalogue on the commissioned projects that six designers, who were awarded by a dedicated jury the Han Nefkens Fashion on the Edge Award, developed for this event. From Olek's life-sized fully crocheted skeleton exploring human identity and commenting on the materiality of the human body, to Iris Van Herpen's 3D printed "Ferro Fluid Dress" characterised by a structure of open lines in the waist on which ferriferous fluid is dripped from above (magnets cause the fluid to stay on the waist of the dress rather than drip into the bathwater); from Craig Green multi-layered menswear combo with a coat inspired by the Japanese noragis surrounded by hand-dyed screens, to "Exercises on Health", a new project by Lucía Cuba - the designer who addressed via her "Artículo 6" project the stories of the men and women forcibly sterilised in Peru. Ricarda Bigolin and Nella Themelios developed instead under the D&K moniker a fake commercial brand to address brand identity and consumer expectations/delusions, and Dooling Jiang reworked in his Digest Design Workshop Chinese traditions and Dutch history, coming up with a monumental installation, consisting in a protective tent anchored to special costumes.
All the chapters include biographies of the designers and detailed descriptions of their work and innovative vision combining the wearable, the surreal and the conceptual.
Rather than as a catalogue for a specific exhibition, readers may take this volume as an encyclopedia featuring over 50 artists and designers, all of them pushing the boundaries of fashion, interpreting this discipline as a language and a critical tool to address the issues, problems and demands of our society.
Image credits for this post
2. "The Future of Fashion is Now", Iris van Herpen's "Ferro Fluid Dress", Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Foto: Aad Hoogendoorn
3. "The Future of Fashion is Now", "Our Home" installation by Digest Design Workshop - Dooling Jiang, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Foto: Aad Hoogendoorn.
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