Friday, August 15, 2008

The Real Gothic Girls

After the rain. 7th Avenue and 12th Street. 5:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Another beautiful August day in New York. First sunny and warm, followed by thunder and rain in the late afternoon, taking the temperatures into the mid-60s.

At noontime I went down to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) as a guest of Dr. Valerie Steele, the FIT Museum’s director and Liz Peek, Sarah Wolfe, and Yaz Hernandez, founders of FIT’s Couture Council. They wanted to show me what they were setting up for the Museum’s next exhibition which will be entitled “Gothic: Dark Glamour.”

The invitation for the Couture Council of FIT's 3rd annual luncheon honoring Isabel Toledo on Wednesday, September 3rd at the Rainbow Room.
I knew none of this until we arrived at the school which is on 27th and 7th Avenue. The exhibition will open on September 5th.

FIT is a well known school in New York although many don’t realize that it has 10,000 students and has one of the greatest fashion archives on the planet.

Valerie Steele took us into the storerooms to show us some of the costumes that will be in the Gothc exhibit. I had no idea that “Gothic” or “Goth” was a specific fashion designation, a description. So I had no idea that many major contemporary designers had already participated in this theme. Designers such as Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Anna Sui, Olivier Theyskens, Ricardo Tishi, Yohji Yamamoto.

“The dark glamorous of the gothic has made it perversely attractive to many designers,” according to Valerie. Galliano told her that he saw the “Gothic girl” as “edgy and cool, vampy and mysterious.”

I don’t consider myself a fashion person although I am visually intrigued. I can look at finished product and have the common sense to detect brilliant artisanship when it’s there. The storerooms of the museum were filled with such examples yesterday. Things that are going to be in the exhibition. I took some pictures. Amazing concoctions of fabric and imagination. This will be a very exciting exhibition for all aficionados and connoisseurs of couture style and design. It will also be a lot of fun even for those like me who don’t know what they’re looking at.

After partaking of the merchandise, pieces of the collection, Dr. Steele took us through the exhibition space where the main gallery which is being designed as a labyrinth, with themes such as “Night,” with black evening dresses; and the “Ruined Castle” with fashion images inspired from the Dark Ages. Then there is the “Laboratory” where “futuristic” fashion monsters are created.
A restorer anchors a very large 19th century mourning veil to a board for the upcoming "Goth" exhibition.
I tend to look at “fashion” from an historical view point, looking for what it portends, explains, refects in historical terms and future historical terms; how it explains the now. I didn’t know before this visit that “goth” was a fashion sensibility. I’d seen it on the street, and indeed, am still seeing it on the street. Even at movie premieres in Hollywood (see yesterday’s Party Pictures). I didn’t “get” it until today.

The FIT Museum storeroom is a fascinating archive. I took several pictures of the costumes ready to exhibit. Dr. Steele showed me examples of the long horizontal storage of costumes. On a second left rack there was a half dozen or more of Charles James dresses. Charles James was considered one of the greatest (and probably the most eccentric of his day – piqued in the 1940s) fashion figures in New York.

The archive I saw date back to the 18th century, of beautifully maintained and stored costumes. The Museum changes its “permanent” exhibitions at least twice a year. Right now they’re running the Arbiters of Style: “Women at the Forefront of Fashion.” These exhibitions are what the Costume Institute at the Met used to be.
Detail, Galliano dress. Detail of a dress festooned with skull images.
Meanwhile. I was there, I soon learned, to hear about the upcoming benefit luncheon that FIT’s Couture Council is giving at the Rainbow Room on September 3rd, honoring Isabel Toledo with the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion Award. Andre Leon Talley will present and Simon Doonan will emcee.

Isabel Toledo is, with her husband Ruben, one of the darlings of New York’s fashion world, social world and art world. The Toledos are passionately talented and creative. They’ve been married and devoted for more than twenty years, and they are “into” each other’s work. They are an amazing married team. Amazing is putting it mildly in today’s world; maybe any day’s world.

Corset by Alexander McQueen.
This is the 3rd annual “Artistry of Fashion” luncheon. It’s the Couture Council’s main annual fundraiser. The monies raised support the Museum Collection. What they are building is the greatest fashion museum in America. You can tell when you’re in the company of these Council members that they know it: they’ve got a winner in the making.

The luncheon will kick off Fashion Week in New York. Among those attending the luncheon will be Diane von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez, Patricia Field, Ralph Rucci, Glenda Bailey, Nadja Swarovski. Junior chairs are Tennessee Hamilton, Alexis Tobin and Whitney Wolfe. Guests will include: Jonathan and Ronnie Newhouse, John and Laura Pomerantz, Arnold Scaasi, Sally Singer, Ingrid Sischy, Elizabeth Stribling, Diana Taylor, Judith Thurman, Alice Tisch, Barbara Tober, Gaily Beinecke, Fabiola Beracasa, Sandy Brant, James De Givenchy, Linda Fargo, Eleanor Ylvisaker, Boaz Mazor, Pat Kerr, Cathy Hardwick, as well as FIT’s President, Joyce Brown and the museum’s director Valerie Steele.

There are still some tickets left if it sounds like your kind of luncheon, priced as follows: Couture Table, $15,000, premium seating for a table of ten; Fashionista Table $10,000, Superior Seating for a table of 10. Runway Table, table of 10, $5000; Couture ticket, $1500, Fashionista ticket, $1000, and a limited number of Runway tickets for $500. Doesn’t matter, the Rainbow Room seating is a pleasure wherever you’re seated. It’s a beautiful room with a panorama of spectacular views and magic to boot: call 212-217-4532 or email
From the FIT Museum's Charles James Collection.
Loreal and Joanna, the girls who make your lunch possible at Michael's. Sarah Wolfe, Yaz Hernandez, Valerie Steele, and Liz Peek.

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