We’re fascinated by technology’s influence on fashion. Technology has impacted how fashion communicates, how it spreads, and how it connects. However, Andrew Bolton’s Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology exhibit gives us a compelling look into how technology shapes how fashion is designed and produced. We were eager to see Manus X Machina during our recent trip to New York.
The exhibit pointedly overturns the familiar hand vs. machine dichotomy, usually associated with the haute couture vs. prêt-à-porter categories of fashion. Handmade usually signifies exclusivity and individuality. The machine-made is generally regarded as inferior and appropriate only for the masses. However, Manus x Machina reveals that when it comes to fashion, the handmade and the machine-made aren’t always so separate. Haute couture and prêt-à-porter have frequently borrowed production processes from each other.
True, the first couture house used sewing machines for its seam work. However, fashion’s recent use of 3-D printing and materials like rubber, metal powders, magnets, and neoprene give us glimpses into fashion’s future.
The view is distinctive, imaginative, and optimistic. Technology is increasingly leading production innovation. As Bolton points out, “…the hand and the machine are equal and mutual protagonists in solving design problems, enhancing design practices, and ultimately, advancing the future of fashion.”
For example, Karl Lagerfeld’s bridal gown stands at the center of the show. As Lagerfeld points out, the use of moldable scuba neoprene material offers couture without the couture. Its train is 20 feet long, has been digitally pixelated, hand painted, and embroidered. Lagerfeld’s gown is a continual intertwining of that made by hand, and that made by machine. Gareth Pugh’s work seems like a natural fit for such an exhibit. There are also pieces from Prada, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.
Some of our favorites are from Iris van Herpen. Having created her first 3-D printed dresses in 2009, she has created truly remarkable silhouettes, and is at the forefront of embracing the fashion opportunities afforded by emerging technology. The Manus x Machina exhibit examines fashion’s place in the “Age of Technology.” It also imbues us with a sense of the new, offering us a glimpse of the future that is just starting to unfold. Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 5 – August 14, 2016.