EXPLORE FASHION FROM THE 2000S AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE
In a new exhibition titled The Overworked Body: An Anthology of 2000s Dress, Australia-born and New York-based fashion curator Matthew Linde refuses to take received wisdom for granted. He’s very clear to explain, as we step through the two mannequin-stuffed gallery spaces in Chinatown (Ludlow 38 and Mathew Gallery) that he’s using for this sprawling look at fashion from the previous decade, that the show is not meant to be “a survey or an overview.” At least, not in the rigid sense that a historian might use those terms. Rather, he points out, “It’s an anthology, meaning a selection by choice.” The show expresses Linde’s point of view about the hidden forces bubbling beneath the sartorial surface. “This approach has really been lifted from Cecil Beaton’s 1971 exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, titled Fashion: An Anthology,” he explains, adding that this was the “first instance in which fashionable modern dress received a museological moment … previously these exhibitions were done under the auspice of a dress historian, but how then can a dress historian approach the idea of fashionable modern dress?”
Linde remarks that his exhibition “hijacks this anthological approach, but to the point of ad nauseam … This exhibition presents a period of fashion that is overloaded and overworked.” His vision sweeps across a wide range of designers, from major figures like Helmut Lang and Walter Van Beirendonck, to obscurities like KEUPR/van BENTM and Hideki Seo. While a more pedantic exhibit might have skipped unknown figures in favor of designers whose clothes people actually wore, Linde uses small names to illustrate big ideas. “I’m bringing up unsung voices from the period to present that fashion history has always been slippery and complicated,” he says, with a mischievous smile. “So someone in 2050 doing an anthology of 2000s dress would do something wildly different to this. This is more of an attempt to unnerve or complicate this idea that fashion periods are cement.”
So what did the period add up to, exactly? “Prior to the 2000s you really had to be an insider to know what was going on in designer fashion,” Linde notes. “When digitization occurred, which people describe as the democratization of fashion, suddenly these wider markets were available. But at the same time you had the proliferation of fast fashion—Zara, TOPSHOP, H&M, Target. So suddenly things became a lot more ugly,” he adds, laughing. “There was so much trash in the 2000s.” Linde’s vision of the decade captures an itchy, imbalanced energy, sparked by disruptive forces like 9/11 and the rise of social media. He showcases designers who blowtorch sequins, turn prom dresses into necklaces, and fill transparent post-apocalyptic survival outfits with trash. They mock couture silhouettes and use religious garb as a punchline. Nothing was sacred. Or perhaps, everything was.