Tag: Cyana Madsen

A Short Novel on Men’s Fashion, Olivier Saillard

Clothing the masculine body in the past 300 years has been in turns ornate and somber, sometimes constructed for leisure but nearly always for function. In his latest exhibition in conjunction with the Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery, ROMANZO BREVE DI MODA MASCHILE (A Short Novel on Men’s Fashion), Olivier Saillard proposes that after centuries of sartorial bondage, finally, menswear is free.

The temporary exhibition is installed at Palazzo Pitti Museo della Moda e del Costume: Florence’s (and Italy’s) growing permanent collection of fashion. On display are menswear garments donated and purchased for the collection from key designers who have shown at the fashion trade show Pitti Uomo in the past 30 years.

In his opening treatise, unfurled like an oversized manuscript in the foyer of the exhibition Saillard writes that, until the mid 20th century, men had to “conform to the authority” bestowed upon them, donning “inflexible trousers” which meant that “man could not swagger”. In the following 19 rooms he uses literary quotes, historical garments from the museum collection, and selections from the Uffizi’s Gallery of Modern Art to offer a direct riposte to this suggested rigidity.

Saillard has focused on injecting movement into unworn clothing, reinstalling the kineticism of life into garments removed from the body, without the aid of traditional mannequins. The result in A Short Novel on Men’s Fashion is that someone has just left the room; a half-crumpled suit displayed on the floor, a pair of trousers thrown over a rail, wrinkles intact. This doesn’t imply a lack of care (though Saillard does directly quote F. Scott Fitzgerald’s scene of carelessly thrown bespoke shirts in his novel The Great Gatsby) but rather the speed with which contemporary menswear can be shucked and left behind for the next big piece. Set against the glass cases holding 18th and 19th century frock coats, it places these contemporary garments firmly in the here and now, while also considering whether they will ever be deemed fit to be enclosed in a reverential casing of their own.

It is immediately poetic to place menswear, not traditionally held up as examples of fashion in the way of womenswear, on display in the ornate silk covered walls of a former Medici palace. However, one of the more affecting aspects of this exhibition comes from the modern paintings selected to hang among the clothing. Often on a side wall, obscured by the garments or mounts, there are some beautiful portraits of men wearing the clothing that Saillard suggests limited the male experience of the world. This includes the arresting Portrait of Piero Milani (1914) by Massimiliano Corcos. Staring with a smirk at the visitor, hands thrust in the pockets of his fashionable suit, Milani’s overcoat and hat are tossed on the table behind him, his glove has fallen to the ground.

This vivid portrayal of the push-pull of dressing the modern masculine body (projecting a refined image while simultaneously challenging the notion of vanity) encapsulates what Saillard outlines in his opening words yet could pass almost unnoticed in competition with the clothing, cases and book-shaped mounts filling the same room.

With A Short Novel on Men’s Fashion, Olivier Saillard proposes to show how the past 30 years has seen the emancipation of menswear, freeing it from the strictures of formality and embracing the multitudes of masculine experience. While there is a debate to be had about how limited, exactly, men have been by their clothing, the strength of this exhibition is in showcasing the vitality of menswear and channeling the perpetual forward momentum of design.

ROMANZO BREVE DI MODA MASCHILE
[A SHORT NOVEL ON MEN’S FASHION]
1989-2019: Thirty years of menswear as seen by Pitti Uomo
Florence – Palazzo Pitti
(Sale della galleria del Costume, Sale Contini Bonacossi)
11 June – 29 September 2019

Curated by Olivier Saillard

Text and images by Cyana Madsen

Requiem: Material/Memory

Torn. Moth-eaten. Tarnished. Degraded. Discarded. From the infinite potential of a pair of unworn shoes to a tweed jacket crumbling from years of use, our clothing resonates with memories of our lives. Displaying garments from The Contemporary Wardrobe Collection spanning the last two centuries, Requiem: Material/Memory explores the intimacies and contradictions of memory as embedded in fabric.

Close up of brown woollen clothing unravelling

Requiem: Material/Memory

Presented by curator and archivist, MA Fashion Curation alumni Cyana Madsen with support from The Horse Hospital, Requiem: Material/Memory features works by artist and material culture researcher Ellen Sampson and sound designer and composer Jonah Falco.

The exhibition is at Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury London, WC1N 1JD

Saturday 4 May – Saturday 25 May

Read more about the MA Fashion Curation course

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SpiceUp Review

As the field of fashion curation rapidly expands past the walls of the museum and gallery and into corporate headquarters and shopfronts, it has now conquered a new frontier; the Islington Business Design Centre in London. A space more commonly known for trade shows and recruitment events, for three steamy weeks this summer the location played host to the exhibition SpiceUp. Subtitled “An Exhibition About The Spice Girls” (lest there be any confusion about the subject of the show), this exhibit was an exercise in curatorial agony and visitor ecstasy.

The Spice Girls were a group of five British women, who auditioned to become a pop group in 1994, and ended up becoming a cultural zeitgeist. SpiceUp has been curated without any affiliation with the group or their management, and is a testament to their lasting legacy. Spread over two floors in a side wing of the former Royal Agricultural Hall, there is no context provided for the location, other than the assumption that there are surely few venues in London built to accommodate such a massive assemblage of clothing, ephemera and merchandise, that would also avail themselves for hire to a member of the public. And so SpiceUp curator Alan Smith-Allison is – albeit one who is responsible for collecting the bulk of the objects on display, and owner of the largest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia on earth. A former charity worker turned exhibition maker, Smith-Allison has collected anything and everything Spice Girls-related since 2007, and in curating and staging this exhibit himself, also brought in loaned objects from fellow fans.

The result is almost overwhelming. With over 7000 pieces of ephemera on display, the exhibition reveals how deeply the public travelled into the mercantile heart of darkness in the Spice era. For the purposes of this review, however, my focus is on the dress and its display

Spice Girls memorabilia on display at SpiceUp.  Photo Cyana Madsen 2018 web

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