Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology at The Met

Lagerfield 1

Wedding Ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French) (b.1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), autumn/winter 2005–6, haute couture; Courtesy CHANEL, Patrimoine Collection, Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Annually each Spring The Costume Institute at The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) in New York, presents an outstanding array of costume providing an insight into the evolution of our society and culture.

In 2016 from May 5–August 14, 2016 the exhibition Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology, coordinated by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute at The Met will be on display.

This landmark show will be made possible by Apple, who are enabling the collaboration between a fashion brand, its designer and our technological age.

The aim of the show is to reveal how “Fashion and technology are inextricably connected, more so now than ever before,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. It is therefore timely to examine the roles that the handmade and the machine-made have played in the creative process”.

This year the exhibition will feature some 150 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready to wear clothing from the invention of the sewing machine until today’s sophisticated machinery, some of which still requires the hand and eye of man to cooperate in order to succeed at mass production.

It’s all about the best of human creativity, the power of perception and the changing ideology of our contemporary age and ever expanding cultural connections.

Lagerfield 2

Wedding ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French), born 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), autumn/winter 2014–15 , haute couture, back view; Courtesy of CHANEL, Patrimoine Collection, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Noted art historian James Laver wrote in 1959 that ‘without the invention of clothes and all the psychological consequences that have flowed therefrom, western civilisation would never have progressed as far as it has…

…It is clothes that made it possible for governments to obtain obedience, religions reverence, judiciaries a respect for the law and armies discipline’.

What we wear can enhance our physical superiority or suggest that one is superhuman or, in the case of convicts, sub human.

It can inspire fear, impose authority and denote power, which is more than often equated with wealth.

On this level costume becomes subjected to politics.

It projects our beliefs both religious and spiritual, while aesthetically conveying an image for purposes of personal status or to accommodate a desire to be distinguished from others in society by elevating their status

Co-Chairs Idris Elba, Jonathan Ive, Taylor Swift, and Anna Wintour, will be sure to capture attention and draw the crowds, as will Honorary Chairs Nicolas Ghesquière, Karl Lagerfeld, and Miuccia Prada

They will also host The Met’s Costume Institute Benefit, otherwise known as The Met Gala, the greatest party of the year

Anna Wintour

Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour

This will take place on Monday May 2, 2016 raising funds for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

Shohei Shigematsu, Director of OMA (Office Metropolitan Architecture) New York, will lead the concept design and Raul Avila the décor for the 10th consecutive year of The Met Gala, this time in consultation with 59 Productions.

Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer for Apple, said, “Both the automated and handcrafted process require similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise. There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it’s the amount of care put into the craftsmanship, whether it’s machine-made or handmade, that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary.”

Ateliers and haute couture houses will be represented, revealing the techniques required to present embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework, and leatherwork.

Hussein Chalayan 1

“Kaikoku” Floating Dress, Hussein Chalayan (British, born Cyprus, 1970), autumn/winter 2011–12; Courtesy of Swarovski Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

They will be showcased alongside innovative processes, including the use of 3D printing, computer modelling, bonding and laminating, as well as laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding in our age of machine refinement.

Designer Hussein Chalayan having marked a decade of working with Swarovski innovating the original use of glittering crystals with costume, will be sure to make a splash.

When launching his Spring 2016 collection recently his models interestingly wearing paper dresses, were suddenly showered with water; the dresses melting away to reveal crystal encrusted party dresses underneath.

His ‘floating dress’ produced for Fall Winter 2011 in Paris will be on display.

It is a museum piece, cut in a curved silhouette that creates the illusion it is floating. It is encrusted with 50 Swarovski Crystal pollens originally released by the model, signifying new beginnings.

Made from polyester resin and fibre-glass matting, the dress is painted in a metallic gold, has a rear door opening and moves around on invisible wheels powered by the motor that also helps manoeuvre the dress by the handset.

At the famous Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderns in Paris in 1925 the idea of a ‘social art’ or better still, associating art with modern industry and establishing a close relation between the two gained a boost.

Such an idea had gained a footing in London when William Shipton and his colleagues founded the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 1754 and in Ireland in 1731 with the Royal Dublin Society who were promoting and developing agriculture, arts, industry,

It really wasn’t a new idea associating commerce with industry and art. Patronage emerged with the ancient Romans and re-emerged from the period known as the Renaissance in Italy, when great families such as the Medici again patronised promising artists.

Chanel 2

Suit, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883-1971), 1963–68 haute couture; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Lyn Revson, 1975 (1975.53.7a–e) Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

There will be some extraordinary garments on view including a stunning Wedding Ensemble by Karl Lagerfeld for the House of Chanel founded in 1913 by the late great Coco Chanel.

Chanel launched her career with sporty, elegant and classy fashions that required yards of string of pearls natural or imitation or gold and gilt chains both of which became an indispensable garment for all fashionable women of her age.

The ideal jewel of the 1920’s was mean to complement a particular dress, or a particular woman and chosen to suit her tastes, lifestyle and features, which is much the same today as famous women around the planet pull out all stops when attending The Met Gala.

Coco Chanel - Tatou

Audrey Tatou played the famous fashion icon in Coco Before Chanel (2009)

Designers in the exhibition include a powerhouse of celebrity; Cristobal Balenciaga, Boué Soeurs, Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Pierre Cardin, Hussein Chalayan, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino), André Courrèges, Giles Deacon, Christian Dior, Alber Elbaz (Lanvin), Mariano Fortuny, John Galliano (Christian Dior, Maison Margiela), Jean Paul Gaultier, Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton), Hubert de Givenchy, Madame Grès, Halston, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Marc Jacobs (Louis Vuitton), Charles James, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), Junko Koshino, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Helmut Lang, Louise Boulanger, Mary McFadden, Alexander McQueen (Givenchy), Issey Miyake, Noir Kei Ninomiya (Comme des Garçons), Norman Norell, Jean Patou, Miuccia Prada, Paul Poiret, Gareth Pugh, Paco Rabanne, Noa Raviv, Yves Saint Laurent (Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent), Raf Simons (Christian Dior), Maiko Takeda, Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy), threeASFOUR, Iris van Herpen, Madeleine Vionnet, Catherine Wales, Junya Watanabe (Comme des Garçons), Yohji Yamamoto, and others.

You would have to say that they are a formidable group of mega celebrities.

Van Harpen

Dress, Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984), autumn/winter 2013– 14 haute couture; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015 (2016.14) Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Costume and the jewellery that goes with, it is all about who we are, where we have been and, where we are going.

Today it has become impossible for us to make a distinction today between styles that will last, trends that will grow and the passing fancies of a season and so fashion has become an attitude, a way of life we choose.

Underpinning it all however is the knowledge that the complexities of our costume is a footnote to our culture, and today it still remains both a changing and eternal form of human expression.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Costume Institute presents

Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology

May 5 – August 14, 2016


A book, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, by Andrew Bolton will feature interviews with Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Hussein Chalayan, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino), Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton), Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Christopher Kane, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Miuccia Prada, Gareth Pugh, and Iris van Herpen. The publication accompanies the exhibition and is illustrated with new photography by Nicholas Alan Cope. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the $50 edition has 256 pages and 250 colour illustrations.

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