Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"WILD: Fashion Untamed" Exhibition



December 7, 2004–March 13, 2005
The Costume Institute, ground floor
For more contact: Bernice Kwok-Gabel 650-2123.


Some photo highlights from the December 6th press preview of the Collection by Randy Brooke: Design by Jean Paul Gaultier; Design by Roberto Cavalli; Design by Bob Mackie; And additional photos from the collection: 3 4 5 6

Animal Magnetism:

‘Wild: Fashion Untamed’ is the name of the new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute which opens to the public today. The exhibition, which strives to present “ an extensive exploration of man's ongoing obsession with animalism as expressed through clothing”, does just that (and brilliantly I might add, illustrating the way in which its original usages have morphed into the contemporary vocabulary).

Included are some of the most exemplary and statement making designs from influential designers past and present, like Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Rudi Gernreich, Fendi, Yves St. Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Azzedine Alaia, Bob Mackie, Gucci, Chanel, and the ‘wild and crazy’ guy himself Roberto Cavalli, a man whose body of work traditionally walks on the wild side of things, and who undoubtedly never met a leopard he didn’t like. Coincidentally, the famed and high living Italian designer was THE sponsor of the exhibit (talk about a ‘marriage made in heaven), with “additional support provided by” 7th avenue ‘veteran’ John and Laura Pomerantz.

In the beautiful coffee table book, “Wild: Untamed”, that accompanies the exhibit (and by the way, it sells for $24.95 and makes for a perfect holiday gift), Associate Curator Andrew Bolton, observes in the forward, “Skins, furs, feathers, and animal prints have played a major role in the history of fashion”, and he goes on to list deer, tigers, zebras, leopards, spiders, serpents, crocodiles, and birds’ plumage as examples of wild life that have long inspired designers, artists, and fashion followers since the beginning of time.

As we all know, the ongoing obsession with these creatures goes far beyond merely practical issues of “warmth and protection” and have become signals and tools which enable us to show our wealth and power, explore and express our sexuality, and display the exhibitionist (our inner peacock -- pardon the pun) that lurks in within. By the way, the ‘politically correct’ exhibit even gives equal time to the folks at PETA, by presenting the other side of the coin through famous anti-fur ad campaigns such as ‘What Becomes a Legend Most”.

To fete the opening of the exhibit, there were several events yesterday, a press preview in the morning, and a gala last night, both of which bore witness to its ‘wildly’ popular theme. After all, fur, feathers, and every type of animal pattern (particularly leopard) are always perennial favorites of both designers and customers alike and furs of all types both large and small are so ubiquitous on the streets of New York they have become positively mainstream and treated as just another fabric.

And notwithstanding vagaries of fashion’s ‘Ins’ and “Outs’, fur, these aforementioned items are never off fashion’s hit parade. How many of the Costume Institute’s past exhibits have had such relevance to so many or have played to such a large audience as this one with its emphasis on leather, fur, and animal patterns? When is the last time you saw a dog, infant, or toddler dressed up in, say, an Adrian creation or a corset and pannier from the Dangerous Liaisons era? (Both are examples of exhibits that ran in the last few years).

So it was hardly a surprise that at yesterday morning’s press preview, so many seem to have been inspired by the subject at hand when they got themselves dressed. Included were fur loving Anna Wintour in Prada’s jewel-adorned chic black broadtail coat, several who wore ocelot or leopard patterned coats and jackets, pony printed overcoats, and two artistic women (‘birds of a feather’ Marjorie Nezin and her friend, Hanne Lauridsen) who literally WERE the exhibit and garnered much attention clad head to toe in fur, feathers, AND leopard.

- Marilyn Kirschner

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