Instead of ushering in hundreds of fashion-centric media types, influencers and guests to preview its latest exhibition at the Costume Institute, as in the past, the Metropolitan Museum of Art welcomed fans virtually Monday morning to get a preview of his next show.
Instead of just glancing at elaborate or perfectly tailored clothing, the show is intended to generate discussion on many of the issues being debated around the world – social equity, diversity, sustainability and more. The one-year two-part show is an attempt to recoup the past year in light of the pandemic.
Met Director Max Hollein, Instagram VP Fashion and Shopping Eva Chen and Costume Institute Curator Andrew Bolton contributed to the presentation, alluding to the multimedia aspect of the double-titled issue. In what will last a year, the Met will unveil “In America: A Fashion Lexicon” at the Anna Wintour Costume Center on September 18. The second part of the exhibition, “In America: A Fashion Anthology,” will debut on May 5, 2022 in period rooms of the American Wing. For the first part, the work of American fashion pioneers will be celebrated with various contemporary designers from around the world “to illustrate the changing tides of American fashion,” said Hollein.
In its 75th year, the Costume Institute aims not only to honor the past, but to embrace the changing roster of fashion talent. Bolton spoke about how American designers have been at the forefront of conscious creativity for 75 years, especially when it comes to durability and transparency. They have also been at the forefront of discussions on diversity and inclusion. The social justice movements of the past summer have strengthened their commitment to these issues, “as well as their leadership.”
For those who may think that the past year has been a bit of a blur, there will be signs of it in Part 2 of the show. Mirrors will be used to show the blurring of borders during the pandemic and “how the functions in the rooms of our homes have become less distinct …” To this end, the rooms will be identified by their emotional qualities rather than by their functions – the kitchen. will be identified by well-being, the living room by confidence, the library by respect, the office by aspiration, the bedroom by intimacy, the attic by nostalgia and the basement by fear. Taken collectively, the garments that will be displayed in each of the period rooms are intended to create “a modern vocabulary of American fashion that prioritizes its values, emotions and feelings…” said Bolton. “Basically, the new vocabulary will address the creative impulses behind American fashion, as well as social, political and environmental motivations.” The first part will present the fashion of designers of the 20th and 21st centuries in connection with these themes. Melina Matsoukas will create an open film which will be screened in the galleries.
The second part of the exhibition is a collaboration between the Costume Institute and the American Wing. From the 18th century to the present day, the exhibition will present the historical and contemporary outfits of women and men. There will be a series of three-dimensional still images produced with well-known American filmmakers. Charles James, Claire McCardell and Fannie Criss, an activist seamstress of the early 20th century, will be in the spotlight. John Vanderlyn’s 1819 mural of Versailles will be a backdrop for a tribute to the 1973 ‘Battle of Versailles’, what legendary WWD editor John B. Fairchild has dubbed the face-to-face between Americans and their European counterparts.
Acknowledging the reinvention and self-reflection that is taking place in the fashion industry, Bolton spoke of the endless possibilities this presents. The one-year event at the Met is also meant to be an attempt to recoup the past year, Bolton said. To play out what The Met hopes will be a cinematic, immersive, and democratized experience, American filmmakers participate in telling the story of American fashion in Part 2 of the show.
While simplicity and functionality are some of the tenets that have described American fashion, the first part of the show will examine the complexity of American fashion. Noting that the fashion industry is reassessing and reinventing itself, Bolton also spoke about the importance of creating new vocabulary to be more relevant, to be in tune with the times we live in.
Hollein noted that Instagram will sponsor both parts of the exhibit. Before talking about Chen’s video remarks, Hollein singled out Instagram’s Adam Mosseri and Condé Nast for decades of support. He also praised Wintour, who will be co-premier of the first Met Gala with Mosseri and Tom Ford. The co-chairs will include Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka and Amanda Gorman. This is scheduled for September 13, pending government guidance. A second Met Gala is scheduled for May 2, 2022.
Bolton highlighted work like a voluminous pink taffeta dress by Christopher John Rogers and a recycled white silk organza piece from Conner Ives’ “American Dream” collection that caters to different body types. The two designers are finalists for the LVMH prize. There is also a work by André Walker from his Spring 2018 “Nonexistent Patterns” collection which was partially sponsored by Pendleton Woolen Mills. Bolton noted a dress from Prabal Gurung’s Spring 2020 10th Anniversary Collection that combined traditional American patterns with a traditional oriental dress. The white poplin dress shown had a belt printed with “Who Gets to Be American”.
A faded black denim scarf from Sterling Ruby will be used to open the first exhibit and to close the second to connect the two exhibits. Conceived during the social justice movement last summer, the artist called it the “flag of the veil” and said he explores “the concept of the flag as a signifier in flux and how our relationship with him can change when activated as a veil. Bolton closed the preview with Ruby’s site-specific film of his creation.
Standing on the steps of the Met in a clip earlier in the presentation, Chen boasted that Instagram has over a billion users and that #fashion is one of the top five hashtags used every day. “Whether you’re an industry insider like a designer, model or stylist, or an everyday teenager somewhere in the world, you know Instagram is the place to inspire you and build community. However, over the past year, Instagram has also been the place for real-time conversations about activism and global movements on social justice, equity, race and gender. she said. “… I hope this exhibit helps spark a global conversation about what fashion means in America today and tomorrow.
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