You may wonder why runway collections from the top ten fashion houses would be displayed at a museum. Simply put, fashion design like art design is creative, innovative, and painstaking. These haute couture designers share insight into the development from birth to execution of these remarkable creations that truly surpass the designation of being labeled "garment." They are hand made for a client, and made to measurement. That is the basic difference between haute couture and ready-to-wear.
When discussing textiles in reference to art, I ask, "Is not the talent of a fashion designer who sees a dress in a bolt of fabric similar to an artist who sees a sculpture in a block of granite?" I say they are both artists. In the past, textiles in art have unfortunately been given a cool reception by the art world. Only until recently have exhibits like "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" and this "Paris Collection 2006" have rightly been given their place in art museums.
For the fashion aficionados, these are the top ten contemporary and most influential fashion houses: Azzedine Alaia, Hussein Chalayan, Chanel, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Maison Martin Margiela, Rochas, Valentino, Viktor & Rolf, and Yohji Yamamoto.
I’ll give a brief synopsis of some of the fashion designers from the exhibit.
Not only is the museum goer able to closely inspect the clothing, but you will watch a video of the collection as seen on the Paris runway.
It is as though the artist breathed life into the clothing. My first impression of the models, typically tall and thin, was that they wear the garments like mannequins. But with movement the fabric and design come alive. They are no longer still life.
One of my favorites from the collection is a printed silk long dress with appliquéd birds by Oliver Theyskens for Rochas. It had an attached piece of loose fabric that when put in motion was truly enchanting, like watching a bird in flight. The extraordinary colors, fabrics, the finished garment, they could best be described as "poetry in motion."
Yohji Yamamoto is fascinated by the space between the body and clothing. (What a strange preoccupation.) He shows menswear for women that satisfy the close-fitting, feminine element with oversized male outerwear.
Viktor & Rolf’s presentation is considered performance art. For example, their "Atomic Bomb" collection shows the models wearing mask-like veils, and taking the catchy title "untouchable" to another level.
Hussein Chalayan designed the most amazing dress with a collar that is clearly identifiable as a headrest from a car seat. In car advertisement from days gone by, fashion models were seen driving convertibles, thus the relation between clothing and the environment in which we live.
Chanel was the most feminine of all the Paris collections using a palette of white and soft pink. Karl Lagerfeld’s designs are based on the original themes created by Coco Chanel, but he continues to move style in new directions. To my amazement, a Chanel cocktail ensemble (jacket, dress, pants) was covered in sequins that required 975 hours of embroidery.
Haute couture is about the juxtaposition of reality and fantasy, creating another world.
Who’s the next trend setter and who’s chic? It’s all about a color story, it’s all about licensing a designer’s name, it’s all about not taking fashion too seriously.
The exhibit "Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006" will be on view at the MFA Boston until March 18, 2007.
A great selection of posters are available here from Art.com.