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Between Kanye’s cyborg-like contact lenses, Beyonce’s condom couture, and Lady Gaga’s Mad Max-inspired Versace bodysuit, there seemed to be some confusion about the dress code for this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala on May 2 celebrating the exhibition, “Manus x Machina: Fashion In the Age of Technology.”
“That was probably my fault,” said curator Andrew Bolton at the Friends of the Costume Institute dinner hosted by L.A. couture queen Susan Casden on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. “The title refers to handmade and machine-made fashion … Having technology in the title, people may have felt it was going to be about harder technology, that they should dress like machines.”
The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 14, is not about sci-fi, robots or Mad Max, Bolton explained to the group of fashion-loving museum donors, including Angelique Soave, NJ Goldston, Kendall Conrad and Tatiana Sorokko. “It’s not about technology per se … it’s about slowing down fashion and exposing the technique not visible to the naked eye.”
Structured around the metiers, or specialized trades of dressmaking, outlined in the Encyclopedie — one of the most provocative publications of the French Enlightenment that placed the crafts of fashion on the same sphere as other arts and sciences — the stunning exhibition features 170 examples of haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces from the early 20th century to present, chosen to showcase the craftsmanship of embroidery, feather work, flower making, pleating, lace and leatherwork, juxtaposing examples made by hand with those made by machine. The eye-popping results are sometimes indistinguishable.
In his first exhibition as curator in charge of the Costume Institute, Bolton aimed to show “how the gap between hand and machine has diminished,” he said, pointing to the exhibition’s 3D-printed Chanel suits as an example, in which the shell of the suit is made by machine, and the embellishments by hand. “It will be interesting to see in future if Chanel adds a 3D print shop to its metier of artisans” in the same way that it has added lace, button and embroidery makers, he said.
Casden, a top couture client at Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci (she was wearing a saffron-yellow hand-embroidered dress from Alessandro Michele’s Cruise collection) has been hosting the Friends of the Costume Institute dinners in L.A. for nine years. Tuesday’s event was held at Spago and sponsored by Cartier.
PARTY PEOPLE: Sarah Jane Wilde and Libertine designer Johnson Hartig (Photo: Getty Images)
Jewelry designer Sarah Jane Wilde was among the group of 40 or so guests. Wilde designs jewelry for Thom Browne runway shows and was carrying one of Browne’s new Hector dachshund-shaped doggie bags. (Bolton and Browne are a longtime couple.) Wilde’s shared that her collection will soon be landing in Maxfield L.A., including pieces she custom designed for David Bowie before he died. “I starred in one of his videos, you know,” said the former model. “I was naked and Matthew Rolston directed.” (Bowie asked her to design pieces inspired by the occult and Aleister Crowley — but in a positive way, Wilde said.)
Social scenester Bridget Gless Keller chose a vintage hand-pleated gown by Mariano Fortuny, famous in the 1920s and 30s for his Delphos gowns, several of which are featured in the exhibition’s pleating section. She scored the piece for $300 at the Colleagues resale room in Santa Monica, which has to be one of L.A.’s best-kept shopping secrets.
Bolton shared that it’s women like Keller and others in the room who he’s most inspired by, rather than celebrities on the red carpet. “I don’t find the connection between fashion and celebrity that interesting,” he said. “I’m more interested in the women who buy dresses and style themselves.”
WELL-DRESSED GUESTS: Bridget Gless Keller, left, and Anne Crawford (Photo: Getty Images)
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