Hiding is Out of Fashion: McQueen at the MET

“Fashion to me is not art because it is only valid if it is lived in and worn. I make clothes and bags and shoes

for people to use, not to put up on a wall and look at. I think clothes in a museum are complete death.

I have seen exhibitions of the clothes of Jackie Kennedy and I am not interested in her wardrobe.

I am interested in the life and the women who wore those clothes.”

~Marc Jacobs, Fashion Designer

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” The way she [a fashion model] interacts with the [robotic] arms is beautiful.…it’s like a dance…”

~Woman at Retrospective

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Standing in a toe-to-toe crowd at the Alexander McQueen Retrospective might not have been great for breathing room, but the eavesdropping was excellent. Amid this great sea of people, I was struck by the passion and excitement reverberating throughout the room. Wafting commentary, from insightful to shallow emitted from the array of spectators both young and old, male and female, fashion-conscious or be clad in sweats.  They all spoke in ecstasy. They spoke resounding affirmations to Lee’s genius, the skill of his craft, and his creative foresight. In other words: his artistry.

I am well aware of fashion’s unpopular position amongst museum committees. Controversial sponsors such as Bank of America or the brand’s couture house itself have been viewed as unethical. Some feel that it degrades the value of other works by being considered an art form. After all, how can Chanel be comparable with Mona Lisa? And there is  that pesky umbilical cord which forever ties fashion to capitalistic consumerism.

Madelaine Levy, Editor of Bon Magazine states:

“Fashion exhibitions are snobbery and perverted bodily ideals … a guilt free variety of fashion consumption. An educational, sensual shopping trip…”

   Seems a little harsh does it not? Call me crazy, but viewing McQueen’s life work did not come off feeling like a trip to Macy’s. If Mrs. Levy had stood where I was in that crowd she could have heard  people discussing symbolism, origin of patterns, construction, choice of material, historical references, and  emotional reactions to the brilliantly curated displays.


Even the fact that a crowd of 500,000 +visitors has made the journey to McQueen’s show is an apparent fact that the majority finds fashion design relevant, aesthetically pleasant, emotionally provocative, and a part of modern history. Think back and one will recall that it was not too long ago that Monet was banned from museums for his paintings. Once upon a time, all forms of art were not considered “art”.

Must I really recall Duchamp and his urinal for everyone?

I didn't want to go there...

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, Art is defined as: “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Was not McQueen’s retrospective exemplifying the application of a tailor’s skill? It undeniably showcased his imagination. And as an eye-witness, I testify that the pathos and beauty of his work created an emotional bond of understanding not only about the designer, but about the spectator themselves.

 “I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.”

~Alexander McQueen

From my experience at the Met, as well as the reactions from the New York Times and the Met itself, I believe Alexander McQueen may have made his best contribution to the fashion world yet. Through the very substance of his designs and integrity of his personal convictions, Lee may have given Fashion the foothold in the art world it is so long overdue to receive. It was my great pleasure to take part in this undoubtedly historic event.

May our generation of designers, architects, game designers, writers and artists be an unbiased one.

     ~MH 7/30/11

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Sources:

http://www.riksutstallningar.se/Templates/ExtNews____35065.aspx

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/fashion/index.html

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Birds of Paradise

        Birds   of   Paradise :  Textile   Collection

The Atlantis Hotel, Dubai

A perfect setting for my design

Dubai has always captured my imagination and sense of amazement.

Through pictures, books, and TV coverage, I’ve come to envision this place as my own modernized “Never Never Land”. Thus, it made perfect sense that when my first textile design assignment called for  a wallpaper design in the art nouveau style, I looked to Dubai as my model location.

In this mirrored repeat, I wanted to express the fresh and tropical atmosphere of an up-scale Dubai resort while keeping true to art nouveau’s organic (and often weird) aesthetic.

In a few weeks, after sketching ideas, compiling color stories, and endless research (I am now a huge fan of Rene Lalique and Muca) the tracing paper copy was created and assembled in a 36″ repeat. That copy was then transferred onto cold press watercolor paper, and the painting began.

My  Muse: Rene Lalique

This hairpin was esp. influential

Rene Laliqe was my main inpiration

Due to my previous knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, I was able to scan in my sketch and apply rough color schemes. After some consulting and tweaking from my professor, I began the more daunting task- making the colors in gauche. Although I had never used this medium, I quickly learned its properties and felt more comfortable. I began to experiment, innovate, and destroy many paint brushes. In particular, I liked an ombre stippling technique I had been playing with and introduced this to my final background.

Main Print

A close up of the border print

In addition to the main print, I also made a border and coordinating stripe. This was an invaluable learning experience as I  learned to expand my original motifs into shapes suitable for prints with new usage. Balancing the colors between main, stripe, and border was a likeable challenge as well.

For about four weeks this intense little project garnered all my effort and energy. I lost myself in painting this collection, devoting 3 to 6 hours every other day until all 3 pieces were complete. In a way, it was like working on a monastic scripture upon which I meditated daily.

Prior to this class, I had a little experience in digital print, but by the end, I found the hand- based process more controlled and malleable than its computer -based counterpart. I enjoyed the physicality and textures that could be achieved as well. For this project especially, an organic quality was best achieved through this process.  Overall, it was a challenging experience that has effected the way I think as an artist in terms of creative process and the way I conceptualize pattern design.

Business meets Fashion: First Tastes

In the summer before my sophomore year at Moore College of Art and Design, I had two vital sources of experience that were to become greatly beneficial in the coming years. First, I was interning for Autumnlin Atelier, a high-end evening wear line in Philadelphia. And on a lighter note, I decided to experiment with creating a fledgeling business on Etsy.com….

My etsy store was a first-hand experience of fashion meets business

Yes, it was my first taste of  both the business and fashion worlds.

With Autumn, I learned, in a broad sense, the amount of work, planning, and organization must go into a fashion show (Steampunk Convention in New Jersey). And specifically, I learned details germane to the functioning of any fashion show such as: how to package/label a garment, how to dress models (this became invaluable later as an assistant dresser for Moore College’s Senior Fashion Show) and how to adapt/react to quickly changing orders and plans.

Etsy was quite a different experience. Having no background with business planning, the problems of pricing, marketing, and shipping were waters uncharted. Nonetheless, my mind was set, and for the remainder of those summer months, I strove to carry out my plans.

My father sells vintage goods online, so to learn about shipping I was luckily able to have him teach me the basics (as well as a few savvy tips). In the area of marketing, I read through countless tutorials (provided by Etsy.com) on the best way to take photos of one’s merchandise, the best times to release your goods to the market, etc. I even went so far as to contact a few popular blogs for advertisement support. One of which (a Japanese street fashion/Lolita blog) offered my store a slot but unfortunately, the price was too high for my experimental endeavor.

Taking good photos for the store was one of many new challenges

The greatest challenge I found, was creating a store policy and a store profile. For the first time, I began questioning who I was designing for, what I wanted to perpetuate as an individual designer, and how I would make potential customers see me as such.

The collection was created around the concept of Victorian style, and fantasy elements

In the end, I made a small, well constructed collection,(examples above), selling but one dress. This experience was a useful exercise in culminating skills, resources, and most importantly, research. Not only did I learn what must be considered for a start-up business, I got a personal glimpse of what would be asked of me in the college semesters to come.

For now, I am keeping this blog, and do plan on eventually placing more recently created items on http://www.etsy.com.

~MHighland

Fashion Illustration: From Pencil to Pixle

    Fashion is an art.

Drawing and painting have always been my strongest suit. Over the summer, however, I have been pioneering a new frontier- Digital Artwork. Using a combination of hand- based techniques and manipulated effects in Adobe Photoshop/AI, I hope to create an image far beyond traditional conventions of representation.

Here is the first round. Enjoy!

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