The 2016 Costume Institute’s Gala, also known as the annual Met Ball, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last week, thus celebrating the opening of its much-awaited spring exhibition, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, which will run through August 14.
Sponsored by Apple, this year, and organized by British-born Andrew Bolton, Head Curator of the Met’s Costume Institute, Manus x Machina explores: “the dichotomy between the handmade and the machine made as it relates to haute couture and prêt-à-porter”, according to Met Director Thomas P. Campbell in the exhibition catalogue.
Over 170 Haute Couture, ready-to-wear and legacy pieces are showcased in the exhibition, which is hosted in the museum’s Robert Lehman wing, from gowns by Charles Frederick Worth and Paul Poiret to futuristic sculptural dresses by Hussein Chalayan, Iris van Herpen and Gareth Pugh, while most fashion giants like Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Prada, Louis Vuitton or Alexander McQueen are also featured, among many others.
Particularly noticeable is Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel Spring 2014 Haute Couture wedding gown, which uses both traditional and modern techniques – embroidery, machine sewing and digital patternmaking.
The exhibition pays tribute to both traditional crafts like embroidery, lacework, leatherwork, pleating and artificial flowers, along with innovative techniques like laser-cutting or 3D printing, while an installation of a traditional atelier de couture recreates the different dressmaking stages.
In a similar spirit, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston currently hosts #techstyle (till July 10, 2016) which examines how technology is revolutionizing the whole fashion experience, the way garments are designed, produced, and worn, while highlighting the increasing concern for sustainability and research on smart textiles.
All in all, the theme for this year’s Met Ball was typically inspired by the exhibition, and although not strictly followed, most celebrities did make silvery futuristic red carpet appearances, like Nicole Kidman in a lunar Alexander McQueen gown, Naomi Campbell in a spectacular Roberto Cavalli Couture dress, Beyoncé in a plasticized second skin Givenchy Haute Couture dress, Claire Danes in a luminescent Zac Posen one, Rita Ora in a spectacular silver feather number by Vera Wang and Julie Macklowe in a metallic jumpsuit by Phillip Plein.