That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff,” sneers fictional Vogue editor Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Pradawhen her personal assistant Andy Sachs sniggers at her choosing between two near-identical blue belts.
It’s this idea that the fashion industry is engrained in our daily lives, whether or not we actively engage with it, which is being explored in a new exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
‘Items: Is Fashion Modern?’ explores 111 items, from jeans to the leather jacket and the suit, that have had an impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries across the world.
To find out more, we spoke to senior MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, about how her team decided which items to include, and why fashion is inescapable.
The main criteria were influence and good design. We selected garments and accessories that had a strong impact on the world in the past hundred years, and that also are remarkable from a design viewpoint. The idea of ‘world’ also demands definition, however. We decided to recognise our centre of gravity, New York City, and expand from it to contemplate the rest of the planet.
The exhibition suggests that our clothing is an important reflection of society. What is your response to people who believe that fashion is vacuous and pointless?
Our clothes are the interface between our soul and the world. They can function as filters, armors, amplifiers, and more. Through fashion, we can communicate many different states of mind, from allegiance to indifference, insecurity, availability, open-mindedness. From these lists of attributes and nouns, we can extrapolate how crucial fashion is our lives. Considering it vacuous means not understanding that in this day and age, even more than in the past, communicating has become the centre of our existence.
Moreover, the fashion industry is one of the most important players in the global markets, fundamental in any consideration about sustainability, labour practices, human rights, and more.
Not acknowledging the importance of fashion is almost delusional.
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