The intimate relationship between art and fashion was the predominant theme at Pratt Institute's annual fashion show, featuring the works of 18 graduating seniors from the school's design program, Wednesday night. So perhaps it was kismet that it fell on the same day that the Met exhibit "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology" opened to the public, just a couple days after the star-studded Met Gala. Or, maybe it was a deliberate move. Either way, this perfect alignment certainly felt like it was meant to be, especially since the former curator-in-charge at the Met's Costume Institute and the nicest (not to mention, the most modest) guy ever, Harold Koda, was honored with the Pratt Institute's Fashion Award for Lifetime Achievement.
"I'm really thrilled. It's actually unexpected, because I don't think my career was all that stellar," Koda humbly tells us prior to the event (this from the man behind some of the most memorable, legendary fashion exhibits at the Met, like "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" and "China: Through the Looking Glass"). "I'm excited for the students' show, because I haven't seen anything—the same way I hadn't seen Andrew [Bolton]'s Manus x Machina show until I walked in."
"That's Andrew [Bolton] at his best. The exhibit shows the spirituality that comes out of exquisite design," says Koda, going on to explain that he was the one to push for the skeletal Iris van Herpen design, despite resistance, that's now on display at Manus x Machina. "As soon as Andrew told me what he was planning, I wished I could have participated," he wistfully adds.
But let's get back to the current state of art and fashion. "Fashion has certain strands of art, while art is everything. You can be naked in a plexi tube and that's art," he explains with a laugh. "But now, there have been manifestations of clothing as a metaphor for larger issues, either gender, political, or consumerism."
Coincidentally enough, Jihyun Kim, the chosen graduate honored with the $25,000 Liz Claiborne Award, used iconic artworks as the main source of inspiration for her collection, but she did it to make a statement about feminism. "I was inspired by portraits from artists, like Matisse and Picasso, but these are male artists using the female figure," she says. Her goal was to create an empowering line-up that had a museum-like feel, a painting feel, but done with a female artist's mindset.
Colorful painterly strokes were brushed onto a solid white canvas of a dress, flouncy hemlines were kept long and graceful from the front and abruptly cropped in the back, and dresses were postured to create new silhouettes. The most interesting touch, though, were plastic bags tied to models' wrists or hung from their necks. And each one was filled with some sort of object: "They were '80s glass dolls as symbols of women and femininity," Kim says.