It seems more and more that designers are experimenting in the realm of fashion, such as Jamie Hayon and Clico Sage, so it comes as little surprise for the Museum of Modern Art to introduce an exhibition that explores the undeniable marriage between fashion and design. Enter Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at MoMA. Antonelli set out to create a new experience at the museum called Items: Is Fashion Modern?, which draws inspiration from Bernard Rudofsky’s Are Clothes Modern? from 1944, one of the few fashion exhibits the museum has hosted.
Recently, she spoke more on the exhibit as part of Surface magazine’s Design Dialogues series held in an intimate setting at MoMA’s Design Store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. “You cannot tell a history of modern design without fashion,” she says, so she put together an advisory committee to gather a list of items that speak to both.
The exhibition features 111 items—all selected for their influence and good design—that tell the history of fashion from the past, present, and even the future, leaving space for interpretation and, of course, sparking discussion. These items include safety pins, Donna Karan’s favorite seven pieces, Colin Kaepernick’s NFL jersey, and sunscreen, which was the last item selected because it “has really become a part of our culture, and it’s about what sunscreen represents in many different cultures,” she says. It’s an interesting pairing of haute couture with items from everyday life that blur the lines between formal and informal and create a dynamic experience for visitors. “The tide is changing,” she says. “There are so many women who are wearing fashionable sneakers with skirts and it has becomes quite normal.”
Another example is the basic black turtleneck, which acts as the unifying element between more rebellious pieces, like a motorcycle jacket or a punk T-shirt, as well as with modest pieces, such as the hijab.
The concept of fluidity also took centerstage. Pieces were not selected based on gender or race, although both are represented. There are no titles for separate rooms, spaces, and sections either. Instead, there is wall text with bolded words such as body, silhouettes, shape, emancipation, control, and morality, which is only a handful of themes on display in the exhibition running through January. “We have Islamic garments, we have modest fashion, we have items that could spark discussions about creation,” she says. “We wanted to make sure a truly rich portrayal,” of all cultures was highlighted.