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”Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, 111 influencial garment designs at MoMA, NY

By FEDERICA LUSIARDI - November 23, 2017

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The Museum of Modern Art presents the exhibition ”Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, an investigation of 111 garments and accessories that have had a profound effect on the world over the last century.

cover: Installation view of “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2017-January 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

501 Jeans (Levi’s) ; Aviator sunglasses ; Ballet flats ; Baseball cap ; Biker jacket ; Bikini ; Chanel No. 5 ; Converse All Stars ; Espadrilles ; Gore-Tex ; Graphic T-shirt ; Little Black Dress (Examples by Chanel , Christian Dior , Givenchy, Thierry Mugler and others) ; Panama hat ; Pearl necklace ; Platforms ; Polo shirt ; Stilettos (examples by Roger Vivier , Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin) ; Swatch 1980s and 1990s examples from the Swatch archive ; Trench coat ; White T-shirt ; Wonderbra ; Yoga pants. These are only some of the 111 designs featured in the exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern” on view at the Moma until January 28, 2018.

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Levi Strauss & Co. waist overalls, 1890. Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co. Archives (San Francisco).

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Installation view of Items: Is Fashion Modern? The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2017-January 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

The exhibition, curated by Paola Antonelli, explores fashion thematically, displaying 111 powerful and enduring manifestations of the ways in which fashion – a crucial field of design – touches everyone, everywhere. The exhibition examines the complex system of fashion – that involves politics and economics as much as it involves style, technology, and culture- using item as a lens. The 111 typologies are presented in the incarnation that made them significant in the last 100 years (the “stereotype”) alongside contextual materials – images or videos – that trace each item’s history and origins through to its archetypal form.

The title of the exhibition reprises the question that architect and curator Bernard Rudofsky raised with his 1944 MoMA exhibition Are Clothes Modern?, which is the only other instance of MoMA fully addressing this field of design. In his exhibition, Rudofsky explored individual and collective relationships with mid-century clothing in the waning moments of WWII, when traditional attitudes still prevailed, women still poured their bodies into uncompromising silhouettes, and menswear still demanded superfluous pockets, buttons, cuffs, and collars. For the Items exhibition, Rudofsky’s question provides a springboard (and a foil) from which to consider the ways in which fashion is designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, worn, and disposed of today.

As part of the exhibition, some designers, artists, scientists, engineers, and manufacturers have been invited to respond to some of these “indispensable items” with pioneering materials, approaches, and design revisions—extending this conversation into the near and distant future, and connecting the history of these garments with their present recombination and use. These prototype designers include both emerging and established figures in the fields of fashion, design, science, and technology. A few have provided pre-existing work, but the majority have been commissioned to create for Items original work that engages a future need, speculation, or desire that fashion might fulfill. Participants include Laduma Ngxokolo (South African) with the Aran sweater; Verbal and Yoon (Korean, lives in Japan) with the Cartier Love Bracelet; Pia Interlandi (Australian) with the Little Black Dress; Unmade (British) with the Breton shirt; Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss (American) with Pierre Cardin’s Cosmos Collection; Chen Zhi (Chinese) with the pencil skirt; and Lucy Jones (Welsh) with tights.

”Items: Is Fashion Modern?
MoMA – Museum of Modern Art
until January 28, 2018
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
(please enter at 18 West 54 Street)

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Installation views of “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2017-January 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

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One-Star Perfecto Leather Motorcycle Jacket, late 1950’s. Courtesy of Schott NYC


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