Taylor Swift Hosts Fashion’s Biggest Party and More From the Met Gala – Vogue.com
An exceptionally glittering crowdâfrom BeyoncÃ© to Alicia Vikander, from Idris Elba to The Weekndâgathered at the Met to celebrate the Costume Instituteâs âManus x Machinaâ exhibition in high style.
At the gala to celebrate the Costume Instituteâs âManus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,â silver was the new black: Witness cochair Taylor Swift in Vuittonâs rah-rah ruffles, Cindy Crawford in her gleaming Balmain column, or the phalanx of robotic attendants with finger-length silver lashes.
The thoughtful and inspiring exhibitionâmade possible by Apple and conceived by the Instituteâs curator in charge, Andrew Boltonâtook its cue from technology in fashion, from Isaac Singerâs 1851 sewing machine to todayâs 3-D printing. Built around a spectacular group of garments that tells the story of fashion created by both hand and machine, âManus x Machinaâ deftly reveals the very different ways that clothing designers have been able to harness both. A case in point: Zac Posenâs techno-Cinderella ball gown crafted for Claire Danes. On the red carpet, the dress looked Charles Jamesâstately, but in the low crimson light inside, a superstructure of state-of-the-art LED lighting and fiber optics gave it a magical fireflyâs glow.
The museumâs Lehman rotunda had been transformed by architect Shohei Shigematsu into an ethereally scrim-veiled cathedral, with the exhibition set to a haunting sound track by Brian Eno. The space was as serene as the party itselfâat the Temple of Dendurâwas rollicking. Here, guests leaped to their feet for The Weekndâs post-dinner set, which was followed by DJ legend Grandmaster Flash opening with a Prince medley before turning to the kind of dance classics that saw the energetic young cast of Baz Luhrmannâs The Get Down (which charts the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx in the 1970s) take to the stage for some impromptu breakdancing, while Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston hit the floor in an electrifying hip-hop tango.
In the center of Shigematsuâs structure (alongside Karl Lagerfeldâs 2014 neoprene-like couture wedding dress for Chanel, its 20-foot train embroidered by CÃ©cile Henri), original copies of Diderotâs controversial Encyclopediaâan Enlightenment bibleâare open to the pages illustrating the traditional fashion arts. Diderotâs equating of these manual crafts with the high art of the sculptor and painter was a scandal in eighteenth-century France, but then as now, as both the exhibition and the galaâs red carpet revealed, embroidery, feather work, artificial flowerâmaking, pleating, lace-making, and leatherwork can result in masterpieces.
In the exhibition: Iris van Herpenâs gullâs-head dress from Fall 2013, composed of thousands of feathery quills of laser-cut silicone. Each tendril had been applied by hand, just like the fronds of bird-of-paradise feather attached to a minidress made by Yves Saint Laurent in 1969 for Pauline de Rothschild. On the Metâs red carpet, a modern echo: Zoe Saldana in Dolce & Gabbanaâs astonishing Alta Moda tropical-bird crinoline, leaving an aviary of plumes in her wake. Or take Christian Diorâs celebrated 1949 haute couture ball gowns, named Venus and Junon, and lavished with embroidery by RÃ©bÃ©âwhich is echoed in the constellations embroidered by Alexander McQueenâs Sarah Burton on Nicole Kidmanâs inky dress and cape. The BouÃ© sisters decorated their earlyâtwentieth century lingerie gowns with tiny roses made of ribbons; today, silk ones made exactly as they were in Diderotâs day were painstakingly arranged by hand on the ridiculously pretty Lily-Rose Deppâs Chanel bolero, and by Georgina Chapman on Karolina Kurkovaâs frothy Marchesa dress.
Boltonâs exhibition also highlights the twin pillars of the couture workroom: the tailleur (tailoring; think Lena Dunham, Jenni Konner, and Jenna Lyons in J.Crewâs Weimar-chic smokings) and flou (soft dressmaking; think Blake Lively in Burberryâs petal-scattered silk organza), and the dressmakerâs work-in-progress toiles, which Bolton describes as âmonuments to ideas.â When Millicent Rogers gifted many of her famed Charles James dresses to the Brooklyn Museum, she also gave the toiles that she felt were as significant to Jamesâs process as a sculptorâs plaster model. When Yohji Yamamoto studied the Rogers collection, he was so struck by these pieces that he designed his Spring 2000 collection based on them. (For the gala, Vogueâs Lisa Love sported a custom Prada menâs blazer with infrastructure showing the 200 operations involved in its construction.)
As âManus x Machinaâ makes clear, though, it was the sewing machineâinvented in 1829 but perfected by Singer 20 years laterâthat truly transformed the fashion industry. Even the most luxurious clothes that money could buyâfrom the ateliers of the great lateânineteenth century designers such as Worth, Doucet, and Paquinâemployed these machines in making their pieces (which might then be layered with infinitely complex hand-finished details).
In the 1920s, Gabrielle âCocoâ Chanel did something of the opposite: While she created clothes that appeared to be streamlined for the machine age, her illusion of total simplicity relied on the most painstaking Belle Ãpoque dressmaking techniques. Fast fashion could imitate the silhouette but not the construction.
Many of the most contemporary pieces both in the show and walking the museumâs sisal carpetâeven when produced with the help of state-of-the-art technologyâinvolved as many human hours as the most elaborately embellished work from the great couture ateliers. There is an almost perverse mix of tradition and futurism in Lagerfeldâs astonishing reinvention of the classic Chanel suit, its fabric lining entirely hand-embroidered by Lesage in metallic sequins and then laboriously sewn in opposing directions to catch the light in different waysâwhile the outer shell is a 3-D-printed polyamide mesh created with laser sintering. It is an extraordinary collision of man and machine (and, at $300,000 a pop, a heady investment). âThis show is trying to debunk the mythology that the hand is representative of luxury and exclusivity,â says Bolton.
Todayâs most innovative designers continue to invent fascinating ways to link man and machine. The 3-D-printed extravaganzas of threeASFOUR, Iris van Herpen (who dressed Lizzie Tisch for the gala), and Noa Ravivâor Nicolas GhesquiÃ¨reâs decoration of metal filaments heat-soldered onto tulleâseem every bit as dazzling and labor-intensive as Yves Saint Laurentâs 1983 Lesage-embroidered fish-scaled Sardine dress, or a 1963 coral-encrusted dress made by Hubert de Givenchy for Mrs. John Hay Whitney. Itâs a reminderâin this era when the designer sometimes seems a disposable commodityâthat the creativity of the human mind is what drives fashion forward in life, on the red carpet, and into the hallowed halls of the worldâs great museums.
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