My favorite way of cheating on fashion with furniture is buying coffee table books in memory of an exhibition I went to, places I’ve visited in general or just aesthetically pleasing ones. The expo ‘Haute-à-Porter’ in my hometown Hasselt was curated by Filep Motwary. The exhibition explored the changing relationship and cross-fertilization between haute couture and prêt-à-porter. A spectacular selection of silhouettes and accessories from top designers and ditto fashion houses was supplemented with photography, film, art and music to provide an original look at the fashion industry of the past 30 years. I’m such a tourist. Literally been walking around here for about two and a half hours, admiring all of the amazing pieces of artwork by designers and fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Burberry, Lanvin, Vivienne Westwood, Givenchy, Galliano, Prada, Miu Miu, Dries Van Noten, Louboutin, Alexander MC Queen, Gucci, A.F. Vandevorst, Maison Martin Margiela, Christian Lacroix, Balmain and many more. Along with the exhibition, a book was published by Lannoo, with interviews and contribitions from Vivienne Westwood to Viktor & Rolf completed with visuals by more than thirty photographers and artists such as Peter Lindbergh, Vassilis Karidis, Miles Aldridge and Thanassis Krikis which are also featured in the museum exhibit.
The book’s beautifully appointed pages really highlight some of the most iconic moments reflecting the exhibition’s overall theme. What is essentially so unique about this exhibit and the accompanying book is that they were brought togheter into one big blank canvas and coexist quite harmoniously. “By mixing Haute Couture pieces with prêt-à-porter in the same space, I don’t want to suggest comparison but to express the harmony between them. Each piece was selected for its identity, its singularity and character.”, said Motwary. The exhibit and the accompanying book actually make up two elements of a single whole: in the book, which is to be published by Lannoo, Motwary felt that it was important to show the many diverse perspectives that various individuals who work in the same field have on a particular subject. Motwary interviewed individuals whom he loves to read about, from journalists (such as Vogue’s Nicole Phelps) and curators (such as The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Valerie Steele) to designers (such as Rick Owens and Stephen Jones).
“The fascinating innovations introduced by the Japanse avant-garde designers and their younger peers in combination with newer Western interpretations of the Japanese aesthetics make up the core of the Across Japan expo. At the same time, the show seeks to illustrate that Japan in the West is nothing new and has a long tradition leading back to the seventeenth century.” Designers and fashion houses represented here are Balenciaga, Maison Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulenmeester, Issey Miyake and many more. The exhibition is part of the Yokoso Festival celebrating the 25th anniversy of the Japanse Garden in Hasselt. If I would have to choose between Haute-A-Porter and Across Japan, I wouldn’t be able to pick one. Both showcased beautiful and timeless pieces by even more amazing designers containing such rich history.
The latest exhibition I went to, curated by Judith Clark, was named The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined which focussed around 12 new definitions of the word by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. The word ‘vulgar’ was originally used in the English-speaking world to characterize a social class and to describe anything that was commonly prevalent. Over time, this neutral description became an insult. Vulgarity became associated with pretension and ambition, with aspirations to special privileges. And it still conjures up negative connotations – words like ‘provocative’, ‘over the top’ and ‘common’ spring to mind. Arranged around thematic categories, such as ‘Too Much’, ‘Showing Off’ and ‘Extreme Bodies’, Clark and Phillips enter into a dialogue that accompanies the visitor through the exhibition. Creations by Walter Van Beirendonck, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, Prada, Vivienne Westwood, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy amongst others illustrate this complex idea.
The exhibition combines historical costume, couture and ready-to-wear fashion with every exhibit reflecting certain aspects of the vulgar. The garments illustrate the instability of taste: what was once equated with vulgarity is re-conjured by designers to become the height of fashion. Mantua dresses with their extremely large skirts and dramatic silhouettes, which were worn at the English court in the mid-eighteenth century are presented next to creations by contemporary designers. The famous ‘Mondrian dress’ by Yves Saint Laurent engages with copies and reworked versions, and the popular designs by Moschino are confronted with Andy Warhol inspired 1960’s Souper dress. This unique and acclaimed exhibition was previously shown at The Barbican Art Gallery in London and at the Winterpalais in Vienna. For the exhibition in Hasselt new looks from the museum’s collection will be added. ‘The Vulgar’ at Modemuseum Hasselt- located in a former convent- promises to be a provocative and engaging experience.