COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Fashion, A-Z

The latest exhibit, Fashion, A-Z: Highlights from the Collection of the Museum at FIT, Part One (Fashion & Textile History Gallery, November 29, 2011 through May 8, 2012; http://fitnyc.edu/11600.asp) is in itself a contradiction.

The show offers a stunning sequence of the most prominent names in 20th and 21st century fashion and their timeless creations.  And this is exactly where the contradiction lies. While we have been used to consuming fashion that is “of-the-moment,” and have lately indulged in celebrity couture collaborations with low price retailers for what is known as “fast fashion,” the pieces on display create a coherent whole, a seamless presentation of couture in the last 110 years or so. In this gallery, fashion is not fast. It is enduring and timeless.

Armani dress clad in Swarovski crystals, Courtesy of Swarovski

Two factors contributed to this cogent display, the curators’ brilliant idea to present the material alphabetically (and not chronologically, which is usually the norm, even when subjects are treated thematically) and the quality of the Museum’s collections.

A showstopper, an Armani dress clad in Swarovski crystals, greets the visitor who is then ushered into the gallery to study the pieces, alphabetically arranged by designer’s last name.  What happens then is that each piece stands for itself and competes in line, cut, draping, and design with other pieces that may be forty, fifty, sixty years apart in either direction. This allows the viewer to appreciate each creation as a distinct artistic feat. In other words, the curators’ innovative approach to the organization of this exhibit elevates fashion to an art form and removes it from the multitude of usually mundane interpretations as a by-product of its times.

This exhibit is a must-see for those who appraise Haute Couture pieces because of all the refreshing connections and associations that the display allows. It is also a great intellectual teaser for art historians, who, I am sure, will immediately entertain the idea of a similar exhibit in a different medium (i.e. sculpture or painting) both for all the unforeseen associations and for the pure fun of it.

© Thomaï Serdari