Thursday, November 23, 2017

'Fashion Together' Exhibition at the Fashion Space Gallery

“Interdependence” is defined as the dependence of two or more people or things on each other. It isn’t exclusive to one particular thing—be it ecological or governance interdependencies. Fashion is one of the participating industries that relies on interdependency. In fashion it is referred to as collaboration. It’s all around us—see the recent success of Erdem’s H&M partnership—or behind-the-scenes—stylists, public relations, make up artists working symbiotically. Lou Stoppard’s debut tome, Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration, out now, chronicles the working relationship of creatives in the fashion industry who have perfected the art of collaboration. “It’s the collaborators, rather than the individuals, who really push the industry forward and inspire this collection.”

An art it is—for these figures to find one another and build a lasting working relationship. Featured are seventeen conversations between pairs, and two reflection (jewellery designer Shaun Leane on Alexander McQueen, who passed away tragically in 2011; the milliner Phillip Treacy on the late Isabella Blow.) A supplementary exhibition, featuring seven of the eighteen pairs, was launched at the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion in September, and during London Fashion Week I had a chance to visit the show between shows. 

An immersive experience, there are conversations providing a fascinating and demanding aural landscape. The teal flooring is littered with quotations and each collaboration is illuminated with the use of paraphernalia—notebooks, sketches, collaborative productions between creatives. The Fashion Space Gallery is a challenging space to work with. Unlike other galleries, the space is incredibly small and each of the featured blends into the next. If anything, it makes viewing the exhibition run smoothly.

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Rick Owens & Michèle Lamy
Michèle Lamy gave Rick Owens his first break in fashion. She ran her eponymous label and a bistro called Café des Artistes in Los Angeles in the 1990s. It was where the duo, who now collaborate on ‘fur and furniture’, met. The centrepiece for their section is The Alchemy chair, crafted from bronze and leather, marrying brutalist concepts with warmth. The furniture collaboration was built out of necessity—the couple needed to furnish their house. Collaboration, similarly, is a necessity. It goes without saying that neither member of the duo would be where the are today without the other.
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Inez van Lamsweerde & Vindooh Matadin
Study any newsstand across the world and you’ll be sure to find the photography of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vindooh Matadin who met at Amsterdam’s Akademie Vogue. Their glossy portraiture is regularly featured in the pages of international Vogue editions. One might ask: how do two photographers work together? Your answer is here. Interestingly, they work alongside one another with two cameras, both capturing the subject from their own perspective. A portrait of director Clint Eastwood fronts their section, indicative of their work’s experimentalist heart. Also provided is digital images of their leather-bound notebooks which store polaroids.
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Nick Knight & Daphne Guinness
Nick Knight, a self-defined ‘image-maker’, founded SHOWstudio, an unparalleled, seminal platform used to showcase fashion film and live media in 2000. Daphne Guinness is a British aristocrat, art collector and champion of unorthodox thinking in fashion. Both have supported Gareth Pugh and the late McQueen. They work frequently together exploring the technological boundaries and pushing them, interplaying that with the realm of fashion. Works featured include films they’ve made together and a 3D-scan of Guinness. For visitors, including this one, the exposure to 3D-scanning was a fascinating, new experience.
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Viktor Horsting & Rolf Snoeren
Viktor & Rolf are exclusively couturiers nowadays. Horsting and Snoeren’s working relationship began when they graduated the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem in 1992. Famously they court the realm of “fashion art”. How could one forget the bubblegum pink tulle flamingoes they created for Spring 2009? Their Fall 2015 couture collection saw them hang framed paintings on their models. Spring 2016 focused on sustainability in couture and it was a visual jog down memory lane, as they alchemised past collections into new outfits, giving the clothing a renewed sense of purpose.

“We love fashion but it’s going so fast. We wanted to say No this season,” the duo said in March 2008. They communicated this message with brilliantly curt manifestations of their frustration with the fashion industry. 3D lettering brought to life a grey coat, with No boldly confronting the viewer. 
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Gareth Pugh & Ruth Hogben
Never one to uphold convention, Gareth Pugh prefers to deconstruct it, manipulate it, perhaps some might put it lightly and say ‘interpret it’… His Fall 2009 collection at Paris Fashion Week broke protocol as he presented a fashion film instead of a formal fashion show. He continued to eschew from the formal fashion presentation format for his Spring 2011 and Spring 2018 shows. The films are always evocative, inspiring fear and terror in the audience more often than not. The reception is always positive. The woman directing these films? Pugh’s frequent collaborator Ruth Hogben. Hogben was formerly Nick Knight’s photographic assistant and Knight introduced the pair. Pugh is one of the few designers working with fashion film in innovative ways and Hogben takes her craft seriously, transporting the audience to otherworldly realms.
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Thom Browne & Stephen Jones
One of the finest tailors in fashion, Thom Browne never fails to enrapture audience with his theatrical brand of suiting. His partnership with milliner Stephen Jones has seen elaborate concoctions, including headwear renderings of elephants, bears, rabbits (from the Fall 2014 menswear show) and miniature jackets, shirts and ties (from the Spring 2015 womenswear show). This aspect to the exhibition is by far the most engaging and accessible for the average viewer. Undoubtedly, the headwear is fantastic and the element of spectacle grips the viewer’s attention. In tandem with the fine artistry of his Browne’s clothing, this pairing makes for striking viewing material. 
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Shaun Leane on Alexander McQueen
If one is to follow the exhibition from right to left, one will conclude their visit with jewellery designer Shaun Leane’s musings on Alexander McQueen, the late fashion designer, someone whose creative streak was unrelenting and he steered the fashion industry into uncharted territory with dramatic and innovative designs that take pride of place in fashion history. Leane lent his sculptural prowess to McQueen’s theatrical flair. Leane’s relationship with McQueen spanned seventeen years and according to Stoppard’s investigation, “the pair were as much confidants as they were work collaborators.” Included in the exhibition are photographs from Leane’s archive, including one of him and Lee, as McQueen was known amongst friends, smiling. A heartwarming note to end the show on.
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Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration, published by Rizzoli, is on sale now and available at clairederouenbooks.com.

Fashion Together runs at the Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion, UAL until 13 January 2018. 

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