The Met: Manus x Machina fashion exhibit: Man & Machine.

met museum fashion exhibit 2016

A few weeks ago I designated a late Sunday afternoon in New York City to visit the Met. Specifically the Manus x Machina 2016 fashion exhibition. It's the one that opens with the wildly photographed Met Gala event. 

The idea behind the exhibit is to showcase the relationship between hand made and machine made. That the two don't operate independently of each other but rather, in the age of technology, intersect and work alongside each other. One technique relies on the other.

“Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made,” explains Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute. “But recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other.” 

"These dresses are made from...custom lace that looks like guipure but is actually a kind of embroidery on a tulle base. It's called ceramic 'stone' lace because the yard has the same properties as ceramic....We began by drawing the patterns on a computer. The patterns were then embroidered - by machine - onto tulle. the fabric was then dipped into acid, causing the tulle to disolve...Then we decorated the material with our 'highfrequency' embroidery - bonding...abstract motifs...to the fabric by ultrasonic welding...The idea was to create dresses made from a new and completely modern type of lace."  --Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough

"These dresses are made from...custom lace that looks like guipure but is actually a kind of embroidery on a tulle base. It's called ceramic 'stone' lace because the yard has the same properties as ceramic....We began by drawing the patterns on a computer. The patterns were then embroidered - by machine - onto tulle. the fabric was then dipped into acid, causing the tulle to disolve...Then we decorated the material with our 'highfrequency' embroidery - bonding...abstract motifs...to the fabric by ultrasonic welding...The idea was to create dresses made from a new and completely modern type of lace." 

--Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough

"The 'Bahai' dress uses 3-D printing to create a new kind of textile that offers attributes unavailable with traditional fabrics. The interlocking fractal weave allows for multidirectional movement without resistance and lends itself to the creation of dynamic forms without (relying) on draping. Next-generation 3-D modeling programs were used to construct the six degrees of fractal growth where each element operates independently from the rest." - threeASFOUR

"The 'Bahai' dress uses 3-D printing to create a new kind of textile that offers attributes unavailable with traditional fabrics. The interlocking fractal weave allows for multidirectional movement without resistance and lends itself to the creation of dynamic forms without (relying) on draping. Next-generation 3-D modeling programs were used to construct the six degrees of fractal growth where each element operates independently from the rest."

- threeASFOUR

"These pieces were very complex in terms of the processes involved. The celluloid sequins were cut into strips by laser, then machine glued onto tulle. When the fabric arrived back from the factory, I didn't like it - I thought the tulle was too flat - But, as I began to fold and drape the fabric, bubbles began to form, and the sequins took on the shape of a croissant...Because the sequins were too shiny, we had them spray-painted - by hand - to create shadows and to make them look more dimensional...I wanted everything to look imperfect, even the metal eyelets."  - Nicolas Ghesquiere

"These pieces were very complex in terms of the processes involved. The celluloid sequins were cut into strips by laser, then machine glued onto tulle. When the fabric arrived back from the factory, I didn't like it - I thought the tulle was too flat - But, as I began to fold and drape the fabric, bubbles began to form, and the sequins took on the shape of a croissant...Because the sequins were too shiny, we had them spray-painted - by hand - to create shadows and to make them look more dimensional...I wanted everything to look imperfect, even the metal eyelets." 

- Nicolas Ghesquiere

"This dress has a base made from cotton fabric. Then there is a rubber component - a soft rubber - in which we place metal powder. When you mix everything together, the rubber has a few minutes when it is still wet and soft. We pour the rubber onto the cotton fabric. Then we place magnets above and below, and you see the metal powder grow piece by piece - in a matter of seconds - before it sets. The coloration is exquisite because while the rubber is still wet and soft we add a very thin enamel powder that has iridescent qualities." -Iris van Herpen

"This dress has a base made from cotton fabric. Then there is a rubber component - a soft rubber - in which we place metal powder. When you mix everything together, the rubber has a few minutes when it is still wet and soft. We pour the rubber onto the cotton fabric. Then we place magnets above and below, and you see the metal powder grow piece by piece - in a matter of seconds - before it sets. The coloration is exquisite because while the rubber is still wet and soft we add a very thin enamel powder that has iridescent qualities."

-Iris van Herpen

"We wanted the embroidery to look like astrakhan - to have the texture of astrakhan. So we laid all the sequins on their sides, which resulted in a furry-looking, three-dimensional sensibility. The were so densely placed that each ensemble comprised three hundred thousand paillettes. The shine was so strange - sort of metallic but pearlized at the same time." - Lazaro Hernandes & Jack McCollough

"We wanted the embroidery to look like astrakhan - to have the texture of astrakhan. So we laid all the sequins on their sides, which resulted in a furry-looking, three-dimensional sensibility. The were so densely placed that each ensemble comprised three hundred thousand paillettes. The shine was so strange - sort of metallic but pearlized at the same time."

- Lazaro Hernandes & Jack McCollough

I have never been a dressmaker. I admire those who can sew, enormously: I have never known how. I prick my fingers.
— Gabrielle 'Coco' Channel

It's a mesmerizing and creative journey through this exhibit at the Met. The idea of man and machine working together proves that what can be created is nothing short of enlightening and spectacular.

I've always had an old school love of traditional ways and natural textiles but I've always had a belief that we've needed machine to take it all to the next level. Now I might consider that recycled plastic bottles will make up the next few seasons collection. Or that I could work with lazer cut and 3-D printing to turn big ideas into reality. That might be way down the line for us, but it's exciting to think that it's not too far away. 

It's also important to see that technology should not replace man but, rather, be a compliment to the creative imagination. After all, that's really the goal - isn't it? To grow our creative imagination?

I encourage you to stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City next time you're there. The Manus X Machina fashion exhibit for 2016 is a feast for the eyes.

**All photos by me. 
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