inside the met's couture-heavy, tech-inspired exhibition 'manus x machina'

The hand faces off against the machine ahead of this year's Met Gala.

by Hannah Ongley
17 February 2016, 12:20am


Forget Fitbits — the Metropolitan Museum of Art is steering the wearable tech conversation towards something slightly more jaw-dropping for the 2016 Met Gala. The Gala's corresponding exhibition is "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology," and takes a deep dive into the effect that technology — whether as simple as a Singer sewing machine or as complex as 3D-printing — has had on the world of haute couture. "It's worth pointing out the advent of haute couture coincided with the advent of the sewing machine," Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute's curator in charge, told WWD at a preview yesterday morning. "And one can't help but wonder if the haute couture emerged as a response to fears surrounding the democratic possibilities of the sewing machine."

The exhibition will take over two gallery spaces when it opens to the public on May 5. The Anna Wintour Costume Center will host the ateliers, tailoring, and dressmaking, while the Robert Lehman wing will celebrate specific haute couture métiers like feather work, embroidery, and artificial flowers. Tension is explored by facing haute couture off against ready-to-wear, the hand against the machine, the aforementioned artisan processes against computer bonding and ultrasonic welding. Particularly Instagrammable gems from the archives include a wedding ensemble by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Issey Miyaki's 1994 "Flying Saucer" dress, and a 1969 Yves Saint Laurent evening dress covered in hand-glued feathers. Iris Van Herpen's revolutionary laser-cutting and 3D-printing techniques also get a generous amount of real estate.

"What all of these examples reveal is that the hand and the machine work in tandem in the creation of fashion for haute couture or ready-to-wear. By attempting to unravel as well as to reconcile the oppositional relationship between the hand and the machine, the exhibition intends to advance a new paradigm for fashion which is more germane to our age of technology," Bolton said. Get a preview of the exhibition tomorrow, and mark your calendar for May 5.  





Text Hannah Ongley
Images via Instagram

Met Gala
The Met
wearable tech
iris van herpen
issey miyaki
manus x machina