Fashion and Technology – Part I

September 23rd, 2017  |  Published in September 2017

With early hints of fall being seen around the city, these next few months are an especially exciting time for the Cincinnati Art Museum and its fashion-loving community. On October 13, the museum and its Chief Curator and Curator of Fashion Arts and Textiles Cynthia Amnéus will unveil Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, an exhibition showcasing the innovative work of the Dutch fashion designer. Amnéus is a noted fan of van Herpen’s forward-thinking approach to design, so this exhibit will certainly be a sight to behold.

As a lead-up to the larger showcase, there is a very interesting installation currently being shown at CAM that explores how textile manufacturing has changed through history. The story will certainly come full circle when we see in person what van Herpen herself is now doing with cutting edge technology she has at her disposal. She certainly would not be able to do what she does had it not been for early developments in the areas of lacework, various printing processes (on fabric) and textile dyes.

Placed in Gallery 104, next to the very engaging William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance exhibit on the first floor, Fashion and Technology highlights these early advancements in fashion through six different dresses (and lace encased in a glass display) with accompanying descriptions to highlight to the viewer what the garment represents in terms of technology.

The highlights included the description of how designers first used hand block printing to create patterns on fabric, eventually moving to better and faster techniques such as roller printing and cylinder printing. How lace began as a luxury for those who could afford to have it made by hand to an item used by various income-levels by the end of the 1800s thanks to lace-making machines is also highlighted.

What was most captivating about this installation is that it make me think. It made me stop and really appreciate how lucky we are as consumers today to have the technology available to go out and buy a piece of clothing. This luck can easily translate to designers who, for example, can choose from a myriad of different colored lace to create a garment or pick any number of patterns to suit their particular inspiration.

Imagine if we had to have each piece of clothing made for us by hand given only the resources we had available. Although some people still do, most people in the Western world can buy clothes easily, as easily as clicking a button in some cases.

Taking a short walk around the Fashion and Technology installation will give you a nice lesson on how and why the embellishments you see every day exist. Some artisans somewhere worked to advance their crafts in a time when it wasn’t so easy to do so.

With all of this in mind, take a moment to appreciate the clothes you have, the people who make them now, and the artisans who came before to invent the processes that made it possible. We’ll return next month with an exciting look at Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, that’ll be sure to include the countless innovations the designer has brought to her field.

–Jennifer Perusek

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