Friday, May 6, 2016

Jill Krementz covers "Manus x Machine" at The Met

"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."
— Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge, The Costume Institute
Manus x Machine: Fashion in an Age of Technology
May 5th-August 14th, 2016
The Costume Institute at The Met

Anna Wintour, Editor of Vogue, wearing Prada, at the Press Preview.
Tom Campbell, Director of the Met.
The Met's Costume Institute's annual spring 2016 exhibition explores how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.

Manus x Machina features more than 170 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from the early 1900s to the present.

The exhibit addresses the founding of the haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of industrialization and mass production.

The Met Gala is always held on the evening of first Monday in May. Although the museum is closed to the public for the day the press is traditionally invited to view the exhibition that morning — one enters the museum through the 81st street entrance because the red carpet is being installed on the front steps.

The press preview is always accompanied by an 11 a.m. press powwow attended by Anna Wintour. This year's remarks were made by Tom Campbell, the Director of the Met, Andrew Bolton, the Curator in Charge, and Jony Ives, Chief Designer of Apple, this year's sponsor.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology ($50) by Andrew Bolton featuring interviews with Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Hussein Chalayan, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino), Nicolas Ghesquière (Louis Vuitton), Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Iris van Herpen, Christopher Kane, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Miuccia Prada, and Gareth Pugh.
Tom Campbell, Andrew Bolton, Anna Wintour, and Jony Ive (Chief Design Director of Apple) at the Press Preview.
Daniel Brodsky, Chairman of the Met, and Daniel Weiss, the Met's President.

Menswear designer Thom Browne who is Andrew' Bolton's partner-in-love.

Noa Rahiv, the young woman sitting beside him, is a designer who has two dresses included in the exhibit.
Tom Campbell looking over his speech before the remarks begin. Wendi Murdoch is Chair of the Friends of The Costume Institute.
"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 exhibition proposes a new view in which the hand and the machine, often presented as oppositional, are mutual and equal protagonists."
Milling around after the conclusion of the remarks: Carrie Barratt, Deputy Director of the Met Museum. Carrie is wearing a Gary Graham duster. Tom with his Chief Advisor, Christine Coulson.

Wendi Murdoch with Laurene Powell-Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs.

Maiko Takeda wearing a headpiece (made out of acetate sheets) and inspired by "Einstein on the Beach." Ms. Takeda is a designer represented in the exhibit with two pieces similar to the one she is shown wearing.
And this is what Maiko Takeda looks like when not wearing her hat. You can see how it folds up into a lovely ball of silver paillettes.
Entrance to "Manus x Machina."

You feel as though you are entering a cathedral because of the beautiful music piped in — "The Ascent" by Brian Eno.
Upon entering the exhibition you are treated to the back view of this magnificent train on a wedding ensemble designed by Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel.

"It was this wedding dress that was the initial inspiration for the exhibit," according to curator Andrew Bolton. "The train itself measuring 20 feet required 450 hours of workmanship."

The front of the dress viewed from the opposite side of the foyer.
Wedding ensemble viewed from the side.

The 20-foot train occupies the entrance foyer with details of its embroidery projected onto the domed ceiling.
Paula Weideger, who writes for The Economist,Nancy Chilton Press Officer for the Costume Institute, and Andrew Bolton. Fern Mallis and Andrew Bolton.

Ivy Baer Sherman, Editor-in-Chief of Vintage Magazine.

"I found the viewing experience at once spiritual, sensuous, and brilliantly informative."
Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784); Jean Le Rond d'Alembert (French, 1717-1783); Pierre Mouchon (French, 1733-1797).

Lace; Leather-bound volume with engraved plates; ink on paper.

"Manus x Machina" is structured around the métiers (or trades) of dressmaking outlined in the Encyclopédie, one of the most provocative publications of the French Enlightenment.

The authors placed dressmaking--the tradesman creating lacework, embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework, leatherwork, toiles and paper patterns-- on equal footing with the arts and sciences.
Dita Amory and Whitney Donhauser. Ms. Armory is the Met curator of the Robert Lehman collection. Ms. Donhauser is Director of The Museum of the City of New York currently exhibiting the work of Roz Chast (who will be giving a talk there this Friday evening, May 6th, at 7 p.m.) Cherie Grimm, wearing H&M, sells advertising for The New York Times.

Christian Dior for House of Dior
"May" Dress

Machine sewn, hand-finished white silk organza and net, hand embroidered with artificial flowers, clover and grass in green, pink and purple silk floss.

"For this dress we laser cut the flower appliqués rather than cutting them by hand. The collection was inspired by the process of photosynthesis, and my intention was to equate a flower's reproductive system with that of a woman's.

"The flowers were taken from a school science textbook—basically, the flowers were like huge textbook images blown up. Although flowers are organic forms, I think that the precision of the machine-created appliqués helped accentuate the didactic nature of the scientific reference textbook. The details are a combination of machine and hand embroidery." — Christopher Kane


Left: Machine-sewn white silk organza, machine-embroidered with white, yellow, and pink cotton floral motifs.

Right: Machine-sewn green silk organza, machine-embroidered with white cotton floral motifs superimposed with hand-embroidered white plastic sequins, rhinestones, and beads.

Raf Simons for House of Dior

This dress—made from two layers of white silk mousseline—is a paragon of fashion's art of technical mastery and virtuoso execution.

As is common in the haute couture, it was sewn by machine and embroidered by hand.

It combines the skills of two brodeurs (embroiderers): Atelier Montex embroidered the underdress with clear plastic crystals, red glass seed beads, and clear and white plastic flower-shaped paillettes, while Broderies Vermont embroidered the overdress with white rayon florettes, red glass seed beads, iridescent flower-shaped paillettes, and small pieces of blue, black, and white silk fabric.
Yves Saint Laurent for House
of Dior; "L'Eléphant Blanc"

"All too often, we forget that embroidery is still done by hand, just as it was in the eighteenth century. We can succeed in completely covering a dress with millions of sequins or beads placed one by one by fingers that, especially in our mechanical age, seem as though they come from fairy hands." — Christian Dior

Hussein Chalayan, Prêt-à-porter Cast fiberglass painted with gold metallic pigment, hung with Swarovski crystal and pearled paper "pollens," rear-entry panels with motorized hinges, radio-controlled digital handset.

"This dress is made from cast fiberglass that has been machine painted with gold metallic pigment, and hand 'embroidered' with fifty 'pollens' created from crystals and pearled paper.

"The wearer enters the dress through a rear-access panel, and the entire garment, which is on wheels, is operated via remote control. Each 'pollen' is spring loaded. During a peak moment, all the pollens are released into the air and swirl around the wearer. It was intended as a poetic gesture, as the dress is meant to symbolize new beginnings." — Hussein Chalayan
Three evening dresses
Left and center:
House of Dior. Right: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Closeup of Sarah Burton's dress:

Machine-sewn white silk organza, hand-sewn to nude silk mesh; hand-embroidered with silver beads, clear crystals, and silver plastic feather-shaped paillettes; hand-appliqué of silver silk and metallic hand-shredded petals.

"In a way, the hand is being lost today. It's important to me that a piece of clothing always feels like it has been touched by the hand at some point, even if there is a lot of machine work involved." — Sarah Burton
Hubert de Givenchy for House of Givenchy
Evening Dress 1963, haute couture

Hand-sewn red-orange cotton Mechlin-type lace hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, tinsel, and pieces of coral

Norman Norell Evening Dresses

Left: 1965, prêt-à-porter Machine-sewn blue silk jersey, hand-embroidered with blue gelatin sequins, machine-finished, hand-hemmed.

Right: Ca. 1953, prêt-à-porter Machine-sewn light blue silk jersey, hand-embroidered with blue-ombré gelatin sequins; machine-finished, hand-hemmed.

Three dresses by Nicolas Ghesquière for
Louis Vuitton Collection; prêt-à-porter

"These pieces were very complex in terms of the processes involved. The celluloid sequins were cut into strips by laser, then machine glued onto tulle. When the fabric arrived back from the factory, I didn't like it—I thought the tulle was too flat .... But, as I began to fold and drape the fabric, bubbles began to form, and the sequins took on the shape of a croissant .... Because the sequins were too shiny, we had them spray-painted—by hand—to create shadows and to make them look more dimensional .... I wanted everything to look imperfect, even the metal eyelets." — Nicolas Ghesquière

Known as the "sardine" dress, this formfitting sheath from Saint Laurent's 1983 "Gilda" collection was created in collaboration with Maison Lesage (founded 1924). The seams of the black silk crepe dress were sewn by machine and finished by hand in the Saint Laurent atelier.

Lesage hand embroidered all the surface embellishments, executed in black and pewter beads and blue, gray, black, brown, silver, and opalescent gelatin paillettes to evoke the iridescent skin of a fish, a task that required fifteen hundred hours to complete.

"The big difference between couture and ready-to-wear is not design. It is the fabrics, the handwork and the fittings. The act of creation is the same." — Yves Saint Laurent
Iris van Herpen

"This dress was 3-D printed using stereolithography. It was built layer by layer in a vessel of liquid polymer. The polymer hardens when struck by a laser beam. The technique allows for more texture and transparency than selective laser sintering. Graphic and organic elements come together to evoke dimensional lacework." — Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen

"People often think that when you create something by machine it is perfect. But this dress is a good example of the opposite. While the dress was printing, many small 'faults' happened because of the intense heating of the material. This makes the bones irregular, and it makes it look even more real." — Iris van Herpen
Suzy Menkes, International Vogue Editor. Tony Freund, the editor of Introspective, 1stdibs' weekly online magazine, and his wife, Joan, who writes about American decorative arts.

Christopher Kane Ensemble

Shirt: machine-sewn grey synthetic organza; skirt: machine sewn-white silk organdy with hand-stitched overlay of 3-D printed black.

"We've used 3-D printing a lot, actually. I think computers are amazing tools to help you on your journey, and to help you arrive at a certain destination, but the brain will always be our greatest tool."

— Christopher Kane
"I have never been a dressmaker. I admire those who can sew, enormously: I have never known how; I prick my fingers." — Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
Noa Raviv, 28, an Israeli designer based in New York, standing in front of her two black and white 3-D-printed designs.

"While working with 3-D software I was fascinated by the grid shown on the 2-D screen and by the way black repetitive lines define voluminous objects. I've translated those lines into textiles that create this sort of optical illusion."

Maiko Takeda's "Atmospheric Reentry" Headpiece and Bolero

A photograph of Ms. Takeda wearing a similar headpiece (but without a scarf) appears earlier in this photojournal--at the press conference

The ensemble shown here is made from hand-cut transparent green-, blue-, and purple-ombré acetate fringe, hand-woven with machine-cut clear acrylic squares, hand-assembled with silver metal jump rings

"Through the experiment process, I developed the technique to create a visual effect of intangible aura by layering printed clear film, sandwiched with acrylic discs and linked together with silver jump rings .... I wanted to keep something tactile and analog about them. I didn't want to use LED lights or anything with a motor or battery. The effect is that they look somehow digital, but the point was they were all made of the tactile and low-tech materials around us."

—Maiko Takeda
Yves Saint Laurent

Machine-sewn white organdy with overlay of machine-embroidered cutwork hand-stitched with machine-embroidered guipure lace; hand-finished
Raf Simons for The House of Dior
Spring ensembles, hand pleated, machine-sewn
"The dresses that opened my 'Inertia' collection (spring/summer 2009), which were exercises in hand draping, were made of jersey thermo-bonded to neoprene. To me, the technique emphasized the gestural act of draping fabric directly on the human figure or mannequin form.

"The collection ended with the body being the 'event' of a crash, with dresses caught in the midst of speed—embodying, simultaneously, the cause and effect of a crash in one moment. Five models stood on a revolving platform wearing dresses frozen in motion and printed with images of crashed automobiles." — Hussein Chalayan

Maryse Gaspard and Rodrigo Basilicati with dresses by Pierre Cardin.

Madame Gaspard has been the fashion director — and muse — for Cardin for 50 years. Monsieur Basilicati, the designer's nephew, told me that Cardin is 94 and still working.
Mariano Fortuny

Evening dresses, hand-pleated and hand-sewn with silk charmeuse, hand-embroidered with Venetian glass beads.

Mary McFadden,1986

Machine-sewn and "Marii" machine-pleated green polyester charmeuse, hand-applied gold metallic passementerie

"It was Lily Gronick who developed the technique of cutting the 'Marii' pleated silk pinned on paper patterns. Later, I found the polyester satin-back fiber in Australia that falls like liquid gold on the body, as if it were ancient Chinese silk.

"The fabric was always converted and dyed in Japan, according to the inspiration of each collection, then sent back to the U.S. for the heat-transfer pleating process. The pleating designs changed constantly over the years. I named the technique 'Marii' pleating, a Japanese version of my name, Mary." — Mary McFadden
Writer Bart Boehlert has published a style memoir called How I Look.

"I love how this show about technology and machine-made clothes has been placed in a serene cathedral setting with mystical music playing. It's a wonderful juxtaposition and a beautiful exhibit that you don't want to leave."
"Pleating has been with us since ancient Egypt. It is a way of wrapping a three-dimensional form with a two-dimensional material. But we had to deal with the challenge that most fabrics would not hold pleats. I was exploring new kinds of fabric that would hold the pleats and create garments that would move with today's active body. The different placement of openings for the neck or the arms create different forms on the body. These were first shown in 1989. The painting of music by Henri Rousseau was the inspiration, so I call them 'Rhythm Pleats.'" — Issey Miyake
"Rhythm Pleats," shown flat.
Issey Miyake

"Flying "Saucers" Pret-a-Porter; machine garment-pleated, machine sewn polychrome polyester plain weave

"This is a continuation of my exploration of pleating with a playful element. The 'Flying Saucer' was a search for what could be done with different sorts of pleating, in this case, accordion pleats, and to see what could be done combining fabric, design, and movement. Why not make a brightly colored wearable accordion?" — Issey Miyake
Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen
Ensemble, Pret-a-Porter

Laser-cut white pony skin bonded to black leather, machine-sewn and hand-finished with Mongolian wool; hammered silver metal box belt.
Paul Poiret
Haute Couture

Machine-sewn black woolsilk coat with white fur collar, hand appliquéd with white kidskin cutwork, hand-sewn hem and silk binding.
Suzy Mae Howard and Kanami Kawaguchi wearing dresses by Alisha Trimble. Kanami's dress glowed in the dark. Maryse Gaspard, Rodrigo Basilicati, and Jean-Pascal Hesse, Director of Press office for Pierre Cardin. The three of them flew in from Paris for a two-day visit to see the exhibit.
1 PM: leaving the Met with a backward glance at the entrance with the white canopy erected for the evening Gala.

The TV news trucks were already lined up on Fifth Avenue ensuring prime spots for their celebrity coverage scheduled for 7 PM.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.