The Met’s Costume Institute is freshening up with emerging designers – WWD

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Just as brands, designers and social media are constantly changing with fashion, so is the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Already in the midst of a year-long expo celebrating American fashion and the Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary, the Upper East Side institution has pressed the refresh button on the first installment of “Part One: In America : A Lexicon of Fashion” with a continued focus on the here and now. Seventy percent of the 100 pieces were exchanged so that the creations of around 35 designers, many of them up-and-coming, are in the new rotation.

Although the second iteration of “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” was always part of the original plan, when its first episode bowed last fall, few would have predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Acknowledging how dramatically the state of the world has changed, Wendy Yu curator Andrew Bolton explained on Friday that part of the logic of keeping the exhibit open for a year and having it rotate was to create “a living exhibit that could respond to not just current conversations and debates within fashion, but broader culturally.

In a nod to the war in Ukraine, a dress by Ukrainian designer Valentina Sanina Schlee, known simply as “Valentina” and a fashion staple in the United States, will be added to the show at the Anna Wintour Costume Center. “Fashion is the only art form that can react so quickly and so directly to the times we live in due to the transience of fashion. Sometimes it’s done more deliberately in response to what’s happening and other times it’s more subtle and taps into the collective consciousness,” Bolton said.

The not-so-distant past is evident from the start of the exhibit. One of the earliest designs currently on display is the repurposed bubble coat by Eli Russell Linnetz that A$AP Rocky wore to last fall’s Costume Institute Benefit (aka a decidedly scaled-down Met Gala). Linnetz reinvented a puff quilt thrift store with leftovers from some of her boxer shorts and her father’s bathrobe. The original quilt maker’s great-granddaughter recognized the design and shared the connection on social media. As well as being a red carpet favorite, this is a repurposed creation and sustainability, as well as diversity, are the undercurrents of the rotation.

The style expertise of another megawatt personality – the late Virgil Abloh – awaits visitors at the foot of the stairs in the Main Gallery. The white cotton-knit and off-white silk-chiffon dress was commissioned from the Off-White founder more than 18 months ago and was to appear in “Part Two: In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” which s bows in the American Wing on May 5, three days after this year’s Met Gala. Following Abloh’s unexpected death in November at the age of 41, The Met decided to highlight his life and contribution to fashion. Abloh had explained that cotton swabs were her favorite flower, Bolton said. The piece reflects the beauty and brutality of cotton production and processing from the 19th century to the present day.

The expansive skirt of Abloh’s dress has “Verg” graffiti sprayed in blue, but it also meant to relay “Fragility,” one of the exhibit’s 12 main themes. Each item of clothing on display also has word bubble headgear designed by Stephen Jones and 19 words such as ‘remembrance’ and ‘attachment’ have been thrown into the mix.

There will soon be a tribute to another fashion force, former WWD and Vogue editor André Leon Talley, who died in January, in an adjacent storefront. In the next week or two, a cape that once belonged to Talley – whose career began at the Costume Institute – will be on display. “His life was spent in this area. He was one of our greatest ambassadors, so we wanted to pay tribute to him,” Bolton said.

“I’ve always thought fashion was so central to our lives, but that centrality is becoming so globalized. There’s this incredible thirst for fashion because the speed of fashion has accelerated so much, and the production of fashion , in terms of what is expected from designers right now – cruise collections, fall collections… the expectation of constant delivery is huge. This is also partly fueled by people’s fashion consumption and interest for fashion,” Bolton said.

Newcomers whose designs are on display include Elizabeth Shevelev, Chris Peters of CDLM, Victor Barragan of Barragan, Ji Won Choi, Tyler Webb of Kentucky Boy Tyler, Lauren Rodriguez and Michael Freels of Lorod, Lu Chen of Luchen, and Jackson Wiederhoeft of Wiederhoeft . Heavily influenced by folk art, Tyler creates his own textiles using shredded clothing, mending in a similar fashion to Japanese boro textiles. Canada-based Evan Ducharme and Section 35’s Justin Jacob Louis are among the First Nations designers whose work is featured. There are also pieces by Native American designers Jamie Okuma and Margaret Roach Wheeler. A good percentage of the additions were selected from the collections of the last three years.

The layout of the exhibit is unchanged – essentially rows of square glass cubes with a set of designers displayed in each. The words are meant to be the foundation, but the colorful craftsmanship on display makes it more of a visual than a cerebral experience. In an effort to attract regular visitors to the museum by showcasing established and well-followed designers, and to spark curiosity among lesser-known ones, the exhibition seems to somewhat mirror Instagram, the main sponsor of the exhibition. “I never thought about it but it’s kind of like that – the immediacy of Instagram. Again, it reflects fashion. Fashion has always been immediate. Its strength, and sometimes its weakness, is its immediacy and its accessibility. That’s always been the case and certainly more so with social media. There’s a certain democratization that’s happening because of social media,” Bolton said.

That said, the designers’ social media followings weren’t considered before selections for the update were made, Bolton said. Instagram was also not involved in creative content, he said.

Some of the new designs in the mix are by Brandon Maxwell, Catherine Holstein of Khaite, Ashlynn Park of Ashlyn, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia of Oscar de la Renta, Christopher John Rogers, Claudia Li, Batsheva Hay of Batsheva, LaQuan Smith, Jason Wu, Jonathan Cohen and Philippe Lim. Creations from old-guard talents like Adolfo, Vera Maxwell, Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo, Anne Fogarty, Bill Blass, Lilly Pulitzer, Elizabeth Hawes and Frankie Welch are also part of the refresh. An eight-way adaptable “Frankie” dress by Welch, an Alexandria, Va.-based designer and retailer, reflects her Cherokee heritage because of its Cherokee syllable print, noted assistant curator Amanda Garfinkel.

In keeping with the theme of “Consciousness”, the final gallery showcases sustainability techniques and ethical production executed by threeAsFour, Gypsy Sport and CDLM. Garfinkel noted Elizabeth Shevelev’s deconstructed knitting and Yoshiyuki Minami’s handmade knitting of Manonuk. “So many young designers are using sustainable techniques or striving to produce sustainably. It’s becoming more and more common in general,” she said.

“Traditionally, American fashion has been characterized by ideals and principles of practicality and adaptability, based on sustainability of use. However, we are trying to project into this exhibit a new way of interacting with clothing and creating ‘interpreting clothes based on their emotional expression and the emotions they elicit in viewers and wearers – as well as the emotions the designers are trying to project,'” Garfinkel said. “It was really rewarding to dig in, to broaden our field of action and discover new creators, in particular American creators. And doing it twice in a year was a challenge, but it was exciting.

With the refresh, The Met aims to create a living exhibit and use more contemporary resources of the moment that lend themselves to the long term. 19th century clothing and early 20th century clothing have more consideration, she said. “Since we were focused on representing a wide range of American designers, the rotation gave us the opportunity to showcase as many as we had. When André [Bolton] was presenting this exhibition for the first time, he joked that it was a zero waste exhibition design. We have used every possible space in this show to show as many designers as possible. »

In addition to gearing up for next month’s Met Gala, museum officials are gearing up for the May opening of “Part Two, In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” Eight directors, including Martin Scorsese, Sophia Coppola, Chloé Zhao, Regina King and Tom Ford, conceptualize stories that will be staged in the American Wing’s period rooms. Spanning the 19th to mid-20th century, the second installment will address the foundations of American fashion in relation to the complex histories of these pieces. They do not create films, but stagings supposed to recall unique shots.

Accustomed to working with living, breathing people, who can be directed, repositioned and advised on self-expression versus “static models who have no facial expressions and limited movement”, this has been “a bit frustrating for them,” Bolton said. , adding that it led to some ingenuity. “What I love most about my work are these outside collaborations. It has broadened our curatorial practice working with them. Tom Ford developed models with a company in Japan that we didn’t know. It was really interesting. While Anthology is more about storytelling, Lexicon is more about vocabulary. They’re tied together by language. They’re just different expressions of that.

Both parts of the exhibition will close on September 5.


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