One of the best fashion exhibits in recent memory happened last year -Inspired by the 1927 film “Metropolis”, The Costume Institute of the Met in NYC decided to turn the ongoing debate of manmade versus machine-made on its head: Their exhibit Manus x Machina explored “how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready to wear…”
The exhibit spanned almost 100 years of haute-couture and prêt-à-porter from Charles Worth, Madeleine Vionnet and Dior to Prada, Maiko Takeda and Gareth Pugh.
Those of us with a ‘handmade’ bias found the 3D printed creations intriguing and fascinating (Wearable? Perhaps not!) but there was something truly magical about the ‘old-school’ hand-embroidered, hand-beaded, hand-woven pieces that seemed to come alive all on their own.
Just when we decided “handmade” was supreme – a thought challenge…“Machine-made” does not automatically mean “mass-production” – both are not mutually exclusive…
It’s worth noting the sewing machine was once considered a ‘disruptive technology’ – a revolutionary, ‘sinister’ modcon conjured up to displace craftsmanship and specialized skills transferred from generation to generation. And yet, the rise of the sewing machine was critical to the development of the haute-couture industry we know today.
Ultimately, the most impressive ensembles at Manus x Machina were the ones that combined modern technology and old-world craftsmanship in innovative ways – such as Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘scuba’ wedding dress with its stunning 20-foot train – Machine printed and handmade elements in 450 hours of workmanship - extraordinary!
So the debate goes on - in 30, 40, or 50 years from now, will we look back on the extruded plastic and polymer designs and marvel at their ingenuity and bold, creative vision? Or will the hand-beaded confections of classic Dior and Chanel still reign supreme? Only time will tell!
Check out the overview here if you missed exhibit: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2016/manus-x-machina