A City of Lights in the Hub of the Universe

A City of Lights in the Hub of the Universe

Michael Hogan

Is fashion art? Can clothing be a canvas? It is, and it can. Once you step into the MFA’s current exhibit Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006 you are immersed in a world of luxury, which is at the same time both elegant and provocative. Last year’s collections from some of the biggest fashion houses, including Chanel, Rochas, Valentino, Christian Dior, are spread throughout. But are they just clothing or are they art? Well, they are both. They are clothing in the sense that, to put it simply, they clothe the wearer. It is the intricacy and imagination behind them that sets them apart as art. And beyond just that, it makes them art when they are worthy of showing in the world’s most renowned museums. There are collections of ready to wear clothes, as well as couture, a term that refers to the exclusive trend setting fashions of the top designers and fashion houses.

The ready to wear section of the exhibit begins with the Fall/Winter 2006-07 collection of Yohji Yamamoto. Yamamoto’s work has a masculine touch consisting mostly of suits. A bit of feminine flair and creativity finds its way into the collection in the form of long flowing cape-like trains and pants with zippers at the bottom that instantly transform into dresses. Next is the Victor & Rolf Fall/Winter 2006-07 collection. Here you find classic styles like the French trench and the little black dress. These well known styles are updated and their rigidity emphasized by the addition of bows and other elements electroplated in silver and weaved fencing masks worn by the models. The Hussein Chalayan Fall/Winter 2006-07 collection is meant to evoke and personify comfort, utilizing armrest shoulder pads, a leather collar that looks like it was pulled straight from a La-Z-Boy, and wood paneling print on silk dresses. Rochas Fall/Winter 2006-07 collection was designed by Olivier Thesyskens and includes pieces inspired by chimney sweeps. It includes Victorian styled pantsuits and evening dresses in black and grey. Azzedine Alaia’s Fall/Winter 2006-07 collection consists of intricately crafted, precisely fit timeless fashions that refuse to be bound by particular seasons.

Maison Martin Margiela presents an Artisanal collection. This Spring/Summer 2006 collection is made entirely from recycled materials. There are shirts made of strings of pearls, dresses of cloth flowers, and vests of playing cards and bottle caps. It also includes pants of gas mask bags, and shirts of sandal straps and seat cushions, proving that with a creative mind and precise craftsmanship anything can become both art and high fashion.

The Couture section is the big ticket of the exhibit. John Galliano’s designed Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2006 collection is the most visually arresting of the exhibit. If Marie Antoinette were alive today and into bikers, this is what she might wear. Laced biker pants, tight corsets, and detailed prints grace the collection. Valentino’s Spring/Summer 2006 collection is one of the most feminine in the exhibit, where pinks, ivories, and lilacs are found. But the collection also includes the signature red gown one might see Scarlet Johansson or Kathryn Heigl wearing on E! at some big awards night. Karl Lagerfeld’s Spring/Summer 2006 collection for Chanel features hip twists on the classic suit. There are also the signature feminine dresses as well. Lastly, there is the Christian Lacroix’s Spring/Summer 2006 collection. The best way for me to describe it is as a sort of Gothic Valentine’s Disco. The collection is all about romance, with hints of Lacroix’s Provencal roots and his modern innovation.

Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006 is on display until March 18. In conjunction with Fashion Show the museum is presenting Fashion Photography, an exhibit featuring the photography of Richard Avedon, David Lachapelle, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton and others. The MFA is located at 465 Huntington Ave and both exhibits are free to UMB students with a valid ID. So, why not take your Valentine and head down to the MFA for an evening of fashion and romance.