Organising fashion exhibitions has proved a successful business for many museums around the world that have managed in this way to attract a younger generation of visitors. Yet the best and most visited events quite often remain the ones supported by famous and powerful sponsors willing to inject enough money in an exhibition and turn it into a monumental celebration of a specific designer as it happened this year with Alexander McQueen at the V&A.
What would happen, though, if a smaller institution would try and come up with a temporary autonomous zone dedicated to fashion? The Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam (founded in 2013 after a merger of the Netherlands Architecture Institute; Premsela, the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion; and Virtueel Platform, the e-culture knowledge institute) may have the answer.
Inspired by the many Dutch museums that feature fashion designs in their collections and by the lack of a proper museum in The Netherlands dedicated to this discipline, the Het Nieuwe Instituut has turned itself into a temporary fashion institution.
Since September 2015 the entire building has indeed been re-christened the Temporary Fashion Museum. The experiment, curated by Guus Beumer (the Het Nieuwe Instituut director since January 2013), will continue until May 2016, and so far has been cleverly put together.
Rather than focusing on one monumental exhibition analysing a specific period of time, a trend or a designer, the Temporary Museum has been exploring the phenomenon of fashion through an extensive programme of exhibitions, installations, performances and events. In this way the contents of the event mirror the fluidly changing nature of fashion rather than the established roles of a museum where objects, items, displays and layouts are frozen in time.
So far the programme has included evenings about the social power of fashion with fashion designers Pascale Gatzen and Saskia van Drimmelen (in the early 1990s fashion designer Gatzen was part of Le Cri Néerlandais together with van Drimmelen, Lucas Ossendrijver and Viktor & Rolf, a group of fashion graduates from the Arnhem Academy of Art and Design, who were also the first Dutch designers to show their collections in Paris); workshops to repair cherished garments with gold thread emulating the traditional Japanese kintsugi technique, explorations of prints and patterns via the work of textile artists and lecture nights about the transformative power of cyber-couture.
Cinema nights have so far featured The True Cost by Andrew Morgan and The Right to Copy by Esther Meijer (whose 'Smiley Knee' leggings were copied by H&M and several other commercial companies), the latter is an interesting documentary exploring the meaning of copying in different cultures and the impact of the Internet, social media and the replica industry on designers' creative processes.
The role of garments is also questioned in relation to different spaces inside the museum. Visitors are first introduced to the entrance area transformed into a seductive perfume department in a luxury emporium. In this place the latest trends are showcased via a selection courtesy of Penny Martin and Jop van Bennekom (editor of fashion magazines The Gentlewoman and Fantastic Man). The selection will change at the beginning of 2016 with the start of the new fashion season.
There's more to discover for visitors, though, including a monthly changing exhibition installed by leading stylists, designers and fashion photographers; a space for fashion consumers keen on discovering more on fabrics through quality textiles and a fitting room for high-heel shoes from sizes 28 to 48 (the very aptly and hilariously named "Pumporama").
Letting visitors engage with fashion is the keyword to this event, but organisers hope that people will also stop and debate about or reflect upon the damages we are causing our planet through the negative social and ecological impact of clothing production.
Fashion designers Alexander van Slobbe and Francisco van Benthum respond to this theme for example with their project "Hacked", in which they use the existing production chain of the fast-fashion industry to create new opportunities for designers and consumers alike. The Hacked label literally hijacks the system by appropriating remnants from the giant fashion brands such as Zara and H&M and transforming them with unique details under the name Van Slobbe Van Benthum.
The Fashion Data installation, curated by fashion historian José Teunissen and designed by Conny Groenewegen in partnership with fashion students, also offers a critical approach to our continuous thirst for consumption.
The fleece sweater becomes in this installation the main protagonist of a fashion machine: cut up and put on spools again, the polyethylene yarns reconstituted from them are reworked into flags and mattresses.
Visitors keen on knowing more about the history of Dutch fashion will be able to do so via an installation curated by Guus Beumer and fashion journalist Georgette Koning, that will allow them discover the surprising influence of a collective passion for cycling on the silhouette of womenswear, the introduction of the white shade in the fashion palette by the Provo counterculture movement and the impact on fashion of Internet pioneers who develop new models of borrowing and sharing.
History is also tackled through three different collections - the Haute Couture archives of Swiss collector Eva Maria Hatschek (there's over 600 pieces from her personal wardrobe including designs by Chanel, Givenchy and Yves St. Laurent), the image archive of photographer Paul van Riel who, between 1974 and 1990 took around over 80.000 fashion images, and the vintage store with unrivalled pieces from (Dutch) fashion history assembled by Ferry van der Nat.
Last but not least, people into architecture and fashion may want to check "Dressed by Architects" focusing on examples of fashion in various architectural sketches, drawings, photographs, objects and models, selected by Alfred Marks from the archives of Het Nieuwe Instituut.
All the institute's activities are grounded in the principles of design and innovation, but the main goal of such a temporary museum is to establish an open canon of Dutch fashion through multiple and occasionally contradictory narratives.
This could be therefore a solution to a static and monumental Leviathan-like fashion exhibition - a hybrid and multifaceted programme of events that allows people to hear representatives from various professions and learn from each other. In this way fashion can constantly develop and rewrite itself week after week, giving visitors the chance to address its complex visual forms and languages.
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