Some of you know that I have an imaginary clothing line called ArctiCouture. One of my artist dreams is to fuse repurposed felted wool sweaters with a northern aesthetic to create clothing that is kind to the environment, looks good on the body, and actually makes sense in a sub-arctic climate. I make progress on this idea in starts and stops.
The other day, I saw that the American Folk Art Museum was exhibiting its own notion of couture called Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art. They invited 13 established and emerging designers to create original ensembles inspired by artwork in the museum’s collection.
Each artist selected one or more objects to be inspired by. For example designer Fabio Costa selected a weathered religious wood craving and a 1796 white cotton quilt to inspire his final creation.
Gary Graham selected an early nineteenth-century coverlet as the inspiration for his Jacquard-engineered coat-dress ensemble. I have got to say that this is hands down my favorite. He individually wove fabric for each pattern piece to the garment, changing the shape and size of the print so that it moves across the body.
While four of the artists selected quilts and one selected lace for their points of creative departure, the rest used non-textile based inspirations. For example, John Bartlett used a painted wood figure to inspire his creation.
The exhibit made me think which is always a good thing. And that thinking resulted in some questions that maybe you can help me answer.
Do you think it would be easier to design a garment inspired by a textile, or would it be easier to design a garment not based on a textile? All in all, I think the ones inspired by textiles were more successful. But the success could be about the designer and the not inspiration. If I were given this challenge, I probably would have chosen a non-textile, but having seen the exhibit (virtually at least) I would now pick a textile.
I am always a little vexed when I see fashion that is not wearable. If it is not wearable how is it fashion, or couture for that matter?
I also think it is interesting that each of the 13 designers are clearly present on the American Folk Art website, but only two of the objects of inspiration have an artist’s name attached to them. And of course, neither of those objects are quilts. What do you think about? I know it seems so full ego to sign your work; but, you know, people of the future will appreciate it if you do.
I hope you will check the exhibit out and let me know what you think. Let’s chat.