Definitely a favourite museum of mine, the Design Exchange in Toronto has housed many different exhibits since I have lived here; all of which have blown my socks right off. Fashion retrospectives are a favourite genre of exhibitions of mine because I find them to be both informative and creative while telling some of the biggest challenges and opportunities faced by designers from various influences in society. At the Design Exchange in the past I’ve seen the Louboutin exhibit and a lingerie retrospective; both of which were fantastic! With a slightly different twist to this one, the Politics of Fashion exhibit houses a wide variety of iconic fashion outfits that were seen as revolutionary both for their time and the movement in which they represent.
Organized in a random sort of manner (at least it seemed that way to me), each little section designated for a designer or a movement was very well orchestrated; from global warming to gay and women’s rights to war protests and more. Starting at the front, I was a little surprised by the somewhat sketchy placement of descriptions for each section or grouping of outfits on display. After walking through a bit more, I started to realize that this had all been intended; the rough placement of room dividers as well.
Ok, so fashion: the best part! I learnt a whole lot about designers I had never heard of like Maison Martin Margiela and even more about those I love like Jean-Paul Gauthier, Vivienne Westwood, and Alexander McQueen.
Some of the outfits, like examples in McQueen’s section, were just some of his usual extravagant outfits and were introduced by the general trend we saw throughout his shows and designs. It never really dawned on me that his use of Scottish tartans and the Union Jack were incorporated as part of his anti-royalist attitude; fun fact!
Other examples like one of Vivienne Westwood’s displays emphasized her vision of the future if action to mitigate climate change is not introduced in society. The use of gas masks and ragged, unfinished hems were meant to symbolize the problems we face in the future if action isn’t taken. The exhibit even housed a very recent example of Moschino’s S/S14 outfits; where McDonald’s logos and other widely-known symbols are used in a very flashy manner linked with today’s “sneaker culture”.
Other Jeremy Scott designs were included, these included the juxtaposition of the cute cuddly Care Bears and Mickey Mouse with guns and warfare found around the world. A political wing at the back with outfits worn by the Kennedys, Trudeaus, Obamas, and other political leaders, and a section of buttons worn by the public in favour of political campaigns also emphasizes our society’s political leaders’ impact on fashion statements.
Although we see some of these crazy outfits in magazines or on the runway, we don’t necessarily make the intended connections with what the designer had envisioned. Having picked out the outfits with a particular importance in a movement and grouping them together really makes you think about the political messages behind them and the ways they have made strides for their wearers and viewers. For me, this was particularly true in the political wing; the “perfect” royal blue for election day was worn by Laureen Harper for example to honor the colours of the conservative party, which I found to be quite interesting.
The exhibit as a whole was a great overview of the ways we have used fashion, and still use it today, to promote who we are and what we represent as people, culture, or society. The curator’s message at the front exemplifies this when we she mentions how each of our outfits are this same kind of representation; we choose what we wear based on how we feel or what we see in ourselves. It’s no surprise that political messages have made their way onto the runway because of the daily contact and challenges we have with this form of art.
Another great exhibit by the curators and designers at the Toronto Design Exchange! Now only if I knew what they were thinking about Karl Lagerfeld’s most recent stunt…hmmm…
And lastly, the best deal is their Dine + Design package which gets you in for less than the student price when you factor in the $25 gift voucher you receive for DrakeOneFifty. Stay tuned for my reviews of that bad boy!