Monday, November 20, 2017


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Shuttle Launch! Harry Gordon for pink poster dress (c.1968), UK on display at Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme @MuseumAtFIT

Over the last year, extreme shifts in politics and weather has shaped social consciousness of climate change. Similarly, everyday-wear for extreme environments has endured a fashionable facelift on account of a decades-long stylistic translation from practical to posh. Currently on show at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT), Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme reveals a notable correlation between clothing developed for survival in brutally harsh environments and the stylish, sartorial feats that have spawned since. Expedition presents 70 items grouped in 5 thematic "environments" inspired by land, sea and space. Keep reading for a glimpse inside...

Installation view with space-age centerpiece

Post 'colonization and conquest' expeditions of the early ages, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) sparks initial interest in exploration of extreme environments. Travel tales by Jules Verne in the 1860s and 70s propagate notions of space and deep sea travel, and presents new design challenges for garment-making. Parkas--created by the Inuit, adapted by the US military (1950s) and viewed as a trendy wardrobe staple of today--prompt curator Patricia Mears to explore the influence and evolution of clothes designed for journeys of discovery. In the Special Exhibits gallery at the Museum at FIT, organized installments of Mountaineering, Deep Sea, Arctic and Lunar Landscape showcase wearables for radical weather. To whet the palette, a Safari-themed diorama display greets visitors in the introductory gallery.

Philipp Plein Fame jumpsuit (2016), France

Anchoring the exhibit, a wire-form spaceship provides a prominent centerpiece. Lining the perimeter, visitors first encounter the Arctic environment with several unique items-- clothes worn by Matthew Henson on his North Pole trek(1909), a rare funerary tunic and a green parka developed for the military during the Korean War--set against white iceberg-like structures. An abundant assortment of puffer jackets serve as a segue between Arctic and Mountaineering, featuring Norma Kamali's sleeping bag coat (1970s), the first down-filled jacket by Eddie Bauer (1930s) and adaptations by high end designers such as Charles James, Junya Watanabe and Tommy Hilfiger. Interestingly enough, gallery guests were predominantly clad in puffer jackets--most notably by practical-turned-popularized brands North FaceCanada Goose and Moncler.

Helmut Lang harness dress [L] and silk jersey & gauze jumpsuit [R] (F/W 1999), USA

Towards the back, white reef-like structures surround selections from Alexander McQueen's 2010 Plato's Atlantis collection and an ensemble by Ohne Titel in Deep Sea. Though early underwater exploration equipment was hulking and heavy, lightweight neoprene wetsuits emerged in the 1950s. On display on a separate "island" are several pieces from Thom Browne's SS 2017 collection, including suits made of neoprene, and women's ensembles by Donna Karan, Karl Lagerfeld and Ohne Titel.

Puffer jackets and space themed garb

Lapping towards the exit, visitors garner a glimpse of the space-inspired garb in Lunar Landscape. The 60s era 'space race' brought an onslaught of bright, light and shiny materials, including a wedding dress by Paco Rabanne, Waste Basket Boutique dresses by Mars of Asheville and a metallic coated miniskirt by Betsey Johnson. At the eye of the exhibit, the place of honor is occupied by Hussein Chalayan's fiberglass and metal dress (S/S 2000). 

Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat (c.1977), USA

"Many of these objects are fanciful, illustrating how designers have been drawn to the same ideas and technologies as expeditioneers, from the ancient traditions of the Arctic peoples to the latest Space Age materials."
-Patricia Mears, Deputy Director

[L] Betsey Johnson silver metallic-coated tricot mini skirt (1966) // [M] Michel Goma's evening dress for Patou (1967-69)

With "extreme wilderness" as the unifying factor for the garments on display, the open space concept works well for the tightly curated mix of survival-inspired style. A quick scan heightens senses towards the graduated groupings; equally impressive is the dramatic design that draws eyes to the etched backlit exhibit signage. For passers-by, the exhibit is worth the walk-through. Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme is free and open to the public until January 6, 2018.

"Lunar Landscape" environment [L] Paco Rabanne wedding dress (c. 1968), France // [R] Hussein Chalayan fiberglass and metal dress (S/S 2000)

[L] Alexander McQueen dresse (S/S 2010), UK // [R] Ohne Titel ensemble (S/S 2015), USA

The "Deep Sea" environment includes Thom Browne men's items (S/S 2017) [L], a Chanel Jacket [M] and an Ohne Title ensemble [R]

Part of the "Arctic" environment Installation view

[L] Donald Brooks evening coat (c.1971), USA // [R] Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi (c.1985), Rome

"Mountaineering" environment, installation view

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