Manus X Machina - New York
I love handwork. When left to my own devices as a designer, what I naturally design are extravagant gowns with sumptuous handwork. The exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum was an extravagance of both hand (manus) and machine (machina) work. "The show is unusually thoughtful — a stately, gorgeous tutorial… exceptional …ravishing exhibition."—New York Times - I have to agree!
In this blog post, you will find some of my favorite ensembles from the exhibit and at times commentary, on a piece, from the designer.
Whether the piece was created in the early 1900’s or today, the amount of work that has gone into these pieces, by hand, machine or both, is absolutely extraordinary.
Let's dive right in - I've added images of the details where I can.
The beautiful flower, the camellia, (see detail above) is the flower of the House of Chanel. The wedding dress below (2005-6) was handmade, from start to finish. The camellia flower takes up to 90 minutes to make and there are 2500 white camellias on this wedding dress, along with just barely visible sequins.
This delicate dress, below, is from designer Boue Soeurs, 1928, haute couture. It is a mix of hand and machine sewn. In the detail photo's you can see Hand sewn ivory silk tulle and hand-embroidered silk flowers.
Now for something completely different: See below from British designer, Gareth Pugh: black dress with plastic drinking straws.
The dress is from Autumn/winter 2015-16 pret-a-porter. Machine sewn black silk wool gazar with overlay of black mesh, hand-embroidered with black plastic drinking straws.
"Every straw was cut by hand... . They were attached individually with metal hardware... . One the runway, you could hear them before you saw them. And they moved beautifully - like feathers caught in a gust of wind." - Gareth Pugh
Sarah Burton, Spring/summer 2012, pret-a-porter.
Hand and machine sewn nude silk organdy, hand embroidered with red-orange glass beads, freshwater petals, pieces of coral and dyed shells.
From the House of Dior
Christian Dior 1905-1957
Autumn/winter 1949-50, haute couture
Detail below: Machine sewn, hand finished pale green silk faille & taffeta, hand sewn pale blue silk tulle embroidered with opalescent sequins, hand appliqué of forty-five hand-cut pale blue silk tulle and horsehair petals, hand embroidered with opalescent, blue, green and orange gelatin sequins.
Dutch designer Iris van Herpen - 3-D printed dress.
"When you look at the first (3-D printed) piece I made, you can see the fine lines of the print. You can see how the piece has been built up...it's as detailed as your fingerprint... .It was inspired by the way limestone deposits form shells. With 3-D printing I am very much drawn to the organic."
From embroidery, bead work and 3-D printing to pleating. Pleating dates back to 1760, when French fan maker, Martin Petit, perfected pleating in a dress. It was only much later, when synthetic textiles came along that designers were able to permanently set pleats.
One of my favorite designers, Issey Miyake, doesn't pleat the textile, he pleats the piece of clothing. Always innovative and original, see below how two of his designs unfold.
Miyake says: "These were first shown in 1989. The painting of music by Henri Rousseau was the inspiration, so I call them "Rhythm Pieces."
And the pièce de résistance?
A wedding dress of course! From The House of Chanel. There are so many amazing details in this dress! The dress is hand molded, machine sewn and hand finished.
Detail of the train: scuba knit and silk satin. Heat press to transfer rhinestones, hand painted gold metallic pigment and pearls and gemstones hand embroidered.
Hand embroidered buttons with gold. glass and crystals. Hand embroidered medallion with glass, crystals, paillettes and gold leather leaf motifs.
What did I come away with? In the world of designer clothing (not mass produced, ready to wear) there are still artists and designers who can afford and who value, hand work and who love to combine it with the machine.