The Moment: This week, while visiting Atlanta to moderate a SCADstyle panel on the future of athleisure with Outdoor Voices founder Tyler Haney (who’s three-year-old company is pretty much the hottest thing in the active apparel industry right now), I took a moment to see a couple of exhibitions that have made the Georgia capital a must-stop on the fashion circuit. "Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion,” at the High Museum of Art," and "Daniel Lismore: Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken,” at SCAD FASH, are dynamic shows that are filled with mind-blowing content.
The van Herpen exhibition, which opened in November and runs through May 15, has been a popular draw here, showing a survey of the Dutch designer’s futuristic collections made since 2008. Over three floors of the High Museum are dresses made from 3-D printed materials to look like exoskeletons, fabrics of intertwined metal threads that resemble curls of smoke, and clear plastic or crystal formations that give the impression of clothes made from splashes of water, or a shell of ice.
The Lismore show, meanwhile, presents the work of another ingenious mind, this one the London artist and eccentric who is known for his outrageous style. More than 30 of his incredibly composed outfits are reassembled on mannequins that resemble a terra cotta army in the SCAD galleries. And when I say reassembled, I mean it. Lismore creates his looks by combining dozens, if not hundreds of elements, repurposing everything from a suit of armor to the jacket of a member of the Royal Guard, to pieces of couture from Alexander McQueen’s collections for Givenchy, to teddy bears and found objects – all in a single outfit.
The results, piled high like carpets are astonishingly composed. Skirts become scarves. Pieces of tapestry are turned in gowns. And hats are piled upon hat after hat after hat, creating sweeping silhouettes that, as Lismore has said, become a form of personal armor in which he can project one persona while protecting his own.
Why It’s a Wow: Fashion exhibitions have become popular tools worldwide to drive attendance into museums. And while they are not always great, increasingly we are seeing impressive amounts of unfiltered creative work in venues that have not always had access to such delights.
While the van Herpen exhibition does not quite convey the excitement of seeing her shows in person (the designs are shown traditionally on mannequins, which takes the fun out of seeing a live person wearing a dress that looks as if it were made from shards of a broken mirror), it does present the shows on video in an accompanying format. When I visited, guests were watching the one where van Herpen shrink-wrapped several models in huge sheets of plastic (with tubes for breathing), and mounted them along her runway. It was still every bit as horrifying.
And recognizing that guests would be curious about the material, the exhibition features several examples of her work that have been produced in samples that can be touched, revealing the strange textures of van Herpen’s world.
Learn More: The High Museum’s website includes further details on several of van Herpen’s collections. And be sure to check out Lismore on Instagram for a little taste of what he can do with a few fascinators lying around.