Mechanical Couture: Fashioning a New Order

Mechanical Couture: Fashioning a New Order

Dai Fujiwara The Wind (with James Dyson )

The Design Museum Holon, Israel is an award-winning architectural project by Ron Arad Architects which was inaugurated in January 2010. The Museum is the most exciting recent development to emerge in the Middle East and is part of an urban regeneration initiative which aims to transform the city of Holon into a centre for design.

In October 2010 the Design Museum Holon will present a groundbreaking exhibition exploring the pivotal role machines are playing in redefining haute couture – widely considered the most extravagant representation of fashion.

Extraordinary fashion pieces by world-renowned designers – including Issey Miyake Creative Director, Dai Fujiwara, Shelley Fox and Marloes ten Bhömer – are featured in the exhibition, which subvert the prevalent notions of handwork and craftsmanship in fashion.

Marloes ten Bhömer rapid protoyping shoe

Dai Fujiwara, Issey Miyake Creative Director and vacuum cleaner designer James Dyson have collaborated to create A-POC (a piece of cloth) which unites mass-production with customisation. Thread is fed into industrial knitting machines, programmed by a computer, and re-emerges as an innovative fabric with various shapes and patterns. In this way the wearer can determine the final shape of their material.

For shoe designer Marloes ten Bhömer, if there is no existing technology to realise her ideas, she works with mechanical engineers to develop the prototypes and create her designs.

Shelley Fox is interested in society’s obsession with body size. Working with volunteers undergoing a weight loss programme, she used their MRI scans as fat-maps or blueprints to design a collection of dresses. Vintage garments were ripped, stitched and sketched on – reminiscent of the markings made by a plastic surgeon on the body before operating.

Curated by independent US-based duo, Curatorsquared, Mechanical Couture showcases specially commissioned works by international and local designers who have used the latest technology and machinery to explore and redefine our understanding of haute couture.

Alyce Santoro audio tape fabric

For centuries, haute couture has stood for bespoke, hand-crafted and superior quality fashion, signifying the ultimate in luxury and exclusivity. In direct contrast, machines imply mass-production, mass-availability and often decreased standards. However, we are now witnessing a fascinating phenomenon of ‘mechanical luxury’: designers are reinterpreting couture as a hybrid of both customised craftsmanship and the mechanised process.

The designers have been motivated to turn to machines for various reasons, resulting in a range of distinct visual styles – from witty, low-tech explorations to subtle inspirations and mind-bending experiments – highlighting that machines are playing a pivotal role in this redefinition of couture.

Ying Gao living pod

Curatorsquared’s Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox explain, “The machine is not simply a means to an end, but the driving force behind the process and design. This exhibition will feature designers who employ machines and technology not for their streamlining capabilities or to boost production, but as a means to realise completely new forms and products – so signalling a completely new interpretation of luxury design. These designers are inspired by machines as concepts, turning to the machine as collaborator in the design process.”

Cedric Flazinski ensemble of sample designs

Galit Goan, Creative Director of Design Museum Holon says, “We wanted to look at a new interpretation of couture and how humans apply technology in a different way. I believe this is the future of fashion production where we will be able to mass-customise clothes through a mass-produced mechanised process.”

The exhibition is curated by Curatorsquared, a US-based duo of independent curators. Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox develop exhibitions of international, cross-media contemporary art and design that explore current cultural issues.

Participating designers: Marloes ten Bhömer, Dana Farber and Galya Rosenfeld; Cedric Flazinski; Shelley Fox; Ying Gao; Patrick Killoran; Kobakant (Hannah Perner- Wilson and Mika Satomi); Issey Miyake (Dai Fujiwara, Creative Director); Despina Papadopoulos; Alyce Santoro; Yael Taragan; and Simon Thorogood.

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