At MAD, 6 creatives challenge the future of fashion

The quest for newness and innovation has long fueled the fashion industry, and with that comes an emphasis on fleeting trends, idealized imagery and celebrity brands and designers that tend to overshadow voices outside of the mainstream. In fashion after Fashion, we are presented with a reimagining of what fashion might mean in the future. The six works on view try to imagine what a “post-fashion” landscape might look like by contrasting between “fashion”—a forward-facing approach that engages with multiple artistic practices and perspectives to create meaningful experiences through fashion—and the existing, normative systems of the “Fashion” industry, which are primarily concerned with commerce, celebrity, trends, and waste.

“fashion after Fashion brings to attention fashion practices that are creative, thoughtful, performative, and socially concerned rather than focused on the short-lived commodification and standardization of products, designers, bodies, images, and lifestyles,” notes curator Hazel Clark. “By featuring commissioned site-specific works, not garments and artifacts, fashion after Fashion channels a current ethos in design,” adds co-curator Ilari Laamanen. “The focus is on collaborative and interdisciplinary practices—we highlight the process, not the product.”

The installations—which incorporate various mediums across design and art such as performance, photography, video, and sculpture— challenge the viewer to think beyond the accepted and traditional systems that make up the fashion world and consider the broader, more inclusive roles that fashion may take on in the future.

Fashion communicates largely through images, and several of the works on display critique this practice and suggest that fashion can go beyond the visual. Coco, a new film by Mike Eckhaus, Zoe Latta, and Alexa Karolinski, presents runway looks from the Eckhaus Latta fall/winter 2017 collection in a bathroom instead of on the catwalk, underlining the idea that fashion can and should be about real, shared experiences between people rather than based on unrealistic expectations and representations of bodies, identities, and lifestyles. Meanwhile, Helsinki-based Tuomas Laitinen and Chris Vidal Tenomaa, the directors of SSAW Magazine, created an immersive bedroom environment plastered from ceiling to floor with an overwhelming amount of fashion images, each of which were chosen to question and push the boundaries of beauty, gender, sexuality, and taste.

The relationship between garments and the bodies that wear them is taken up by the Helsinki-based duo behind ensæmble. Alisa Närvänen and Elina Peltonen created a series of sculptures, brought together in an installation entitled INSIDE, made of wood and plaster which attempt to give form to the hidden spaces between our skin and our garments. The works highlight how we relate physically and psychologically to our clothes as they cover and protect our fragile bodies.  Parsons School of Design grad, Lucy Jones explores this intimacy from a more pragmatic viewpoint. explores how fashion can be more human-centered and inclusive through her collection of 22 sleeves designed for people who use wheelchairs. The series expands on Jones’s work developing functional yet beautiful clothes for a wide range of people that does not need to be replaced after one fashion season.

Ryohei Kawanishi questions how we ascribe value to fashion by creating a wholesale showroom environment where store buyers purchase directly from designers. By altering preexisting branded garments and replacing their labels with his own, Kawanishi questions the extent to which the brand of a garment impacts consumers and forms a perception of value.

The most visually arresting work on display is also the show’s most elusive. Danish designer Henrik Vibskov and his team created a monumental, semi-transparent red cube which serves as a metaphor for a dressing room or a dressmaker’s showroom. Instead of mannequins, red dress-like garments are suspended above puddles of sand—a symbolic nod to the passage of time and the ephemerality of fashion.

In 2015, fashion trend forecaster Li Edelkoort declared ‘the end of fashion as we know it,’ and this exhibition is a response to that challenge. Together, the six specially commissioned projects on display present a roadmap for reshaping an industry to be more diverse, critically informed, and socially relevant.

“fashion after Fashion” is on view at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, NY through August 6, 2017.

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