Exhibiting Fashion

“Faking It” at the Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to attend a special tour and talk with Ariele Elia, curator of the Faking It: Originals, Copies and Counterfeits exhibition that is currently being held at the Museum at FIT. The exhibition explores not only the issue of copyright infringement and counterfeits in fashion, but also other ways in which copying—both in authorised and unauthorised ways—has led to dubious authenticity in the fashion industry.

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

The exhibition starts by showing examples of the first well-known fashion copies, which included the copying—sometimes licensed and authorised by the original creators of the clothes—of French designs in America. The exhibition includes the example of a Chanel suit, presenting both the Chanel version and the licensed copy, as well as a licensed copy of Pierre Balmain’s Angel evening dress and a version of Dior’s New Look created by Nettie Carnegie in New York.

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

It is also possible to see some moments in fashion where inspiration has been taking from art throughout the years. Examples of this, in the exhibition, include the very well-known Mondrian art—and the Yves Saint Laurent dress, among the multiple garments that emerged from the artist’s work—as well as Andy Warhol’s art for Campbell soups. This part was particularly interesting to me because, although I have seen the use of recognised artwork in fashion more than once, for some reason—and even though it is pretty obvious—I had never thought of it as a problem for authenticity. But it, of course, contributes to it!

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

The exhibition then goes to explore the case of counterfeits, which is probably the most recognised example of fashion copyright infringement. The most interesting part is not seeing the different counterfeits showcased in the exhibition, but the several videos explaining the differences between originals and copies. I’ve always appreciated the art of fashion involved in the creation of high-end garments and accessories, and this part of the exhibition definitely shows that!

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

Finally, the exhibition shows some examples of parody in fashion. According to Ariele, the problem with parody comes when it is not clear and the consumers might get confused with the meaning of it. For example, Brian Lichtenberg’s “Homiés” ensemble seems to be clearly making fun of the Hermès logo in his designs. However, Yohji Yamamoto’s “YY” logo, which he debuted at his fall 2007 runway show, seemed to be too similar to the Louis Vuitton monogram, which has been used by the house for ages, making the designer probably cross the lines of copyright infringement.

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

I must accept I am truly a lover of fashion exhibitions in museums but mainly only because I like to see pretty dresses and garments. I am by no ways a critic of such exhibitions and I know there is a very long path for them to go through and develop both a more academic standpoint and a way of including the social phenomena that shape fashion at determined points in time. And although this is also true for the Faking It exhibition at MFIT, I really did enjoy being able to attend the talk with the curator and learn from her. She was wonderful not only in transmitting insights about the exhibition but also in sharing some funny anecdotes that made our time with her a unique and fun experience!

Love,
Laura
Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

"Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power" at the Jewish Museum

Helena Rubinstein at the Jewish Museum

I went yesterday to the Jewish Museum to see the exhibition Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power. Although it showed a wonderful array of the artwork collected by Rubinstein throughout her life––including some beautiful portraits of her by the most relevant artists of her time, amazing sculptures from Gabon, and a few of her miniature rooms, which I totally want to have in my home—I must say that the exhibition was far less than I expected.

I arrived to the exhibition because I have to write a review about it as part of my Fashion History coursework… So I did expect some fashion. And although the exhibition contained a wonderful Bolero jacket by Elsa Schiaparelli—which is probably one of my favourite garments from the designer, only because I am obsessed with elephants—that was pretty much it. No fashion at all…

But what is even more surprising is the lack of talk about beauty. Being Rubinstein the absolute beauty master, I really expected to see more beauty-related content, and not just a few seconds of her advertising videos at the end, and less than a dozen samples of her beauty products. Although the curator did seem to admire Rubinstein for being a genius marketer and challenging the stigma associated with makeup in the early twentieth century, these issues were left mostly untouched, and nothing other than her art collections was shown.

I’ve experienced this kind of bias—showing Jewish “heroes” without elaborating on the reasons for their importance—in the past at the Jewish Museum, it hit me harder this time. As much as I value Jewish pride—or any type of pride, to be honest—I also like arguments with a basis. And I like going to museums to learn and be informed… Something I feel lacked this time.

I did enjoy seeing the beautiful portraits, though… And the art, especially when artworks from Picasso, Kahlo and Miro were juxtaposed to tribal sculptures from Nepal, Gabon and Ivory Coast. Oh, and the beautiful creations that Rubinstein’s collection of miniature rooms are—trust me, they are breathtaking! I really recommend paying a visit to the museum if you’re interested in any of these… But if you want to learn about this genius of the beauty industry, I wouldn’t say this is the place to go.