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Manus × Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology Vol.2

All the questions, asked in the previous post, were answered after I finished walking through the exhibition. Whether you are a fashion lover or not, you cannot but marvel at human creativity and ingenuity. Putting the hand-made against the machine-made is as if you are trying to put mind against body. How can the body exist independently of its mind’s commands? There is continuity and interconnectivity. And there always will be. And the curators of the exhibition expertly show off this continuity by displaying all garments, whatever their age and technological achievement, on the same old-fashion mannequins as if they are still in the designer’s atelier.

All dresses House of Dior (designed by Raf Simons) Haute Couture SS 2015: hand-pleated, machine-sewn silk organdy, hand-embroidered with silk grosgrain ribbon.But this continuity can be disrupted, and it is being disrupted already. Take away a key ingredient in the process of conceptualisation-experimentation-creation, and disruption becomes disorientating. Take away the ingredient of time and the process becomes a case of chasing your own tail.

Alber Elbaz at a lecture associated with the exhibition, very eloquently sums-up why ‘Manus x Machina’ is important. He said “It was almost an exhibition that was done for designers and with designers’ work. It was about workmanship, about know-how, about time, and the one thing that impressed me the most was that it was almost silent. . . .” (from vogue.com). But how does this kind of silence go with our obsession of over-exposure, and shouting about everything we do from the rooftop?

Maison Margiela (designed by John Galliano) Haute Couture SS 2015: machine-sewn and hand-painted linen, hand-sewn and hand-pinned black lacquered toy cars.

In this post, we are looking at technologically brilliant garments; where technology marries well with traditional ways of dress-making. These garments could be science fiction but are truly wearable. We look at avant-garde pieces made of resin and plastic. But, we also look at techniques such as pleating and plisse making. These techniques were considered ground-breaking, almost science fiction when they were first used, but now can be found everywhere…

All dresses Louis Vuitton Co. (designed by Nicolas Chesquiere) Prêt-à-Porter SS 2016: machine-sewn cotton poplin, hand-appliqued overlay of silk-synthetic net, bonded with laser-cut metallic strips, hand-airbrushed with coloured pigment, hand-grommeted with copper metal.

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Manus × Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology Vol.1


The MET’s exhibition ‘Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology’ (May – September 2016) was the most relevant exhibition regarding fashion creativity, and what is happening in our industry right now. Its aim was to show how, since the creation of the sewing machine, the binary opposition between hand-sewn and machine-sewn was created. But at the same time, the exhibition emphasized the juxtaposition between the hand and the machine.

House of Chanel (designed by Karl Lagerfeld) Haute Couture AW 2014-15

Karl Lagerfeld’s haute couture wedding dress creation (2014) for pregnant Ashleigh Good is a case in point. The dress was the first thing a visitor saw, displayed beautifully in a domed room, as if the work of deities. A closer look revealed that it was made of scuba knit and its train hand-painted with gold, machine-printed with rhinestones, and finished by hand-embroidered pearls and gemstones. The perfect marriage (excuse the pun) between man’s creativity and handiwork, and a machine’s precision. Before you enter the exhibition, the curators have answered the question for you; there is no either or… Coexistence is possible and preferred.

Walking through the beautifully curated rooms I was taking in the unique experience of being up close and personal with haute couture fashion. But I wasn’t completely lost in the beauty; I found myself keep on asking certain questions. All the exhibits were haute couture pieces painstakingly made. They were creations that took time not only to make but also to conceive. Then it became obvious to me. Creativity needs time and what is lacking right now is exactly that. Everything is faster, instant. See-now-buy-now, until the next trend is used and discarded. Do we allow enough time for creatives to create? Think about the next best thing? Does our industry really values talent and craft less than growth, marketing success and social media exposure?

Prada (designed by Miuccia Prada) Prêt-à-Porter AW 2015-16: synthetic jersey-gazar machine and hand-sewn applique, hand-embroidered.

Which made me question further what is the relationship between haute couture and ready-to-wear (Prêt-à-Porter). Of course there are differences between the two, but if the former still has the benefit of time, and the latter the disadvantage of instant gratification, doesn’t the gap between fashion as an art, and fashion as a consumption object grow bigger? Does the lack of time make ready-to-wear and high-street fashion less valuable, throw-away-prone?

In this first post I want to share with you the amazing creations made of sequins, lace and flower decorations, sometimes all three put together on one garment…


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Tori Amos: 25 years of creativity

I am a huge fan, it is not a secret. I have been since I was 15 when I first listened to her music. It was like a slap to the face, a burst of my middle-class safe upbringing bubble. It was right then that I first realised the world was a much bigger place, full of possibilities. It was 1994 and I was listening to a cassette version of her 1994 album “Under the Pink”. I do not remember how I discovered it, but I never looked back. I have bought all her albums, and tried to go to all her London gigs since.

Artwork from the album "Night of Hunters" (2011): courtesy of the artist

Exactly 25 years ago, today, her debut album “Little Earthquakes” was released in the UK. 14 albums later she remains the same. A fighter, an artist who refuses to compromise, still remaining the most original female artist of all time. She is still fighting for women’s rights, against violence, and religious oppression.

This post is about her work, the inspirational imagery that accompanied her musical landscapes (a few images used in this post), and the issues she addressed throughout her career. It is nice to think that artists like her could inspire creativity in principles such as fashion designing. Where have the days of muses inspiring fashion designers gone? Being inspired by how people choose to wear and combine their clothes on the street is great, but I get the feeling that fashion is at a “what-came-first-the-egg-or-the-chicken” crossroads. Time to look elsewhere for inspiration.

From the greatest hits album "Gold Dust" (2012): courtesy of the artist

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Andy Warhol: Print Inspiration

Everyone knows Andy Warhol. You know, the incredibly famous artist and leader of the pop art movement who became famous by copying objects he did not invent or create. Funny how a copy of a canned soup or a multi-colour repeat of Marilyn and Mao can be found everywhere; decorating walls of petrol stations, hanging in the toilet of a dentistry… People all over the world have chosen to decorate their walls with copies of his work (which of course were copies of something else to start with). Even though they probably do not know him, they do know Marilyn and that branded soup! And this ladies and gentlemen is postmodernity in a blink.

Warhol E Noto: Image from exhibition

His most famous art was inspired by 1950s mass consumption. By using multi-media, he recreated icons of popular culture (objects or celebrities), anything that could and would be mass consumed. His work negotiated the relationship between art, consumerism, advertising and celebrity culture, notions, believe it or not, that we are still battling with. But more importantly he showed us how daily objects can be art or artful. I am sorry Oscar Wilde but he did show us how art is imitating life more often than life imitates art. Long live Aristotle…

We have many things to thank him for: “The Velvet Underground” band, “Interview” magazine, the “Sticky Fingers” cover design, and for helping us all understand the explosion of social media. As he very well predicted, “in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”. If you think his influence stops at his colourful repeats, or his dollar bills think again.

His work is controversial but inspiring. His usage of colour and his ability to re-work the mundane into a hyper-version of itself its outstanding. We all have seen dollar bills but we have never imagined them the way he did! But look beyond his iconic art and towards his less known pieces, and you will discover an artist of sensibilities and social concerns, not just an artist obsessed with selling and fame as he was accused.

Warhol E Noto: official poster

What attracted me more at the exhibition in Noto Sicily: “Warhol e Noto” (Warhol is famous) was his less known art. Next to his “best-sellers” there were also more diverse and tongue-in-cheek works. His choice of colour and multi-media approach are proving still relevant and quite modern. I see how these can inspire colour palettes and print directions for upcoming seasons. A multi-media approach to prints is very key to future print trends…

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