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Fashion Looks Forward in the Manus x Machina MET Exhibit

For its spring exhibition, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art examines handcrafted and mechanical manufacturing in fashion, with an exhibit gift shop curated by Nordstrom VP of Creative Projects Olivia Kim.

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

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

 

Fashion and technology are historically interwoven: Textile manufacturing was the major catalyst of the Industrial Revolution, introducing the ready-to-wear economy. Early computers borrowed from the punch card technology of the jacquard loom for their processors. Now, computer-aided design is a requisite fashion course for would-be designers.

The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute presents an exploration of fashion manufacturing in Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology (May 5-August 14). Haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs are on display in the more than 100 pieces in this exhibit.

Kaikoku” Floating Dress, Hussein Chalayan, autumn/winter 2011–12; Courtesy of Swarovski Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

“Kaikoku” Floating Dress, Hussein Chalayan, autumn/winter 2011–12; Courtesy of Swarovski, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

 

“Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other,” said Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s curator. “Manus x Machina will challenge the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy, and propose a new paradigm germane to our age of digital technology.”

Ranging from late-19th-century gowns constructed pre-sewing machine to contemporary pieces derived from 3D-printing technologies, Manus x Machina examines our fashion traditions through historical and technological lenses.

Dress, Iris van Herpen, 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.

Dress, Iris van Herpen, 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.

 

On the museum’s main floor, examples of haute couture fashions are juxtaposed with machine-made versions. Couturiers specializing in embellishments such as embroidery, lacework and leatherwork occupy a series of rooms and will present workshops on a variety of techniques. Visitors can also view the 3D printing of garments in the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries. Demonstrations of other innovative processes such as computer modeling, laser cutting and circular knitting will also take place.

Including designs by Karl Lagerfeld, Hussein Chalayan, Coco Chanel, Mary Katrantzou, Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Miuccia Prada, Iris van Herpen and many other illustrious fashion designers and houses, Manus x Machina strives to capture the progression of clothing creation, as both a technique and an art.

—Britt Olson