Museum of FIT New Exhibition

High (Fashion) Tech

Gareth Pugh dress in silver mirror finish 2011 & Louise Gray dress 2012 inspired by bar codes

Much of the world is on-line almost 24/7, and every aspect of our lives (including fashion) has greatly benefited from a wide variety of technological advances (where would we be without them?). This is precisely the subject of “Fashion and Technology” a new well edited exhibit at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was organized by Ariele Elia and Emma McClendon along, with Colleen Hill and Lynn Weidner.

Pierre Cardin space age design & Courreges pink wool dress 1968

To best illustrate the changing concept of fashion (especially as it relates to textiles), and the technological innovations that have had the most impact on fashion, (in terms of production, materials, aesthetics, and function), 100 objects were chosen, all culled from the museum’s costume, accessory, and textile collection. The introductory room begins with digital technology, as visitors are greeted with a video of Burberry’s 2011 holographic runway show, projected life size, along with a monitor featuring a live Twitter feed. Across the way, there’s a dress and bag which was created by Dutch design studio Freedom of Creation, (the company is based on cutting edge 3D technology that makes use of a computer controlled laser to seamlessly sculpt the garment layer-by-layer). It was made solely for the Museum at FIT and. as such, has afforded MFIT the distinction of being the first museum to accept a 3D printed textile into its permanent collection.

Issey Miyake 1996

The exhibit spans 250 years, (it ends with fall 2012 to be exact), and there are many early, unlabeled pieces that are under the radar if not surprising (for example, an 1860’s purple and black silk afternoon dress from England, is made of synthetic analine dye, and the striking and brilliantly modern art deco 1920’s jacket emblazoned with the New York skyline, is an homage to skyscrapers and illustrates the way in which technology had transformed the urban landscape- literally). But the best and most highly visual items (and the bulk of the exhibition) can best be described as somewhat obvious, if not iconic, bearing names of designers who were known to push the boundaries of fashion and became synonymous with innovation.

Paco Rabanne dress in plastic, metal and jersey 1965 & Emilio Pucci jumpsuit in stretch shantung

Notable examples include a Paco Rabanne dress made of plastic metal, and black jersey, 1965; an Emilio Pucci jumpsuit made of synthetic stretch shantung (the fabric was called Emilioform and it was developed by Emilio himself); a Pierre Cardin PVC hat, and a dress made of fuchsia Dynel (the fabric utilized heat set technology rather than needles and thread to permanently mold it into a 3 dimensional form); a pair of space age inspired white leather Courreges boots, 1965, and a pink wool dress, 1968 (his space age designs were inspired by the 1960’s International Space Race), a Rive Gauche YSL dress from 1964, made of yellow PVC cotton; examples of permanent polyester pleats from Issye Miyake,1996 (he introduced the fashion industry to a new generation of fabrics).

Rive Gauche YSL dress in PVC cotton 1964

Other examples include a Mary McFadden, 1977 (her permanent pleats were created by using heat set technology rather than hand pleating silk, as had been done before); a Kenneth Richard ensemble,1996, made of printed blue vinyl was juxtaposed next to Jean Paul Gaultier’s second skin jumpsuit in nylon and spandex with a cyber graphic print, 1996 (it was from a collection that was inspired by the Cyber Age.  Also there was a copy of Time Magazine, spring 1995, bearing the cover lines “Welcome to Cyber Space” was in clear view); a 1970’s Missoni sweater and culottes made using a Raschel machine which enabled them to create zig zags in dynamic color combinations, and allowed them to re define knitwear; a Gareth Pugh silver mirror dress with slashed polyurethane finish, from spring 2011, shown alongside Louise Gray’s dress and tights in black and white from fall 2012, which was inspired by QR codes (they were a step in the evolution of the barcode: an ideal marketing tool for the digitial age).

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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