Fortuny, Balenciaga and the Museum at FIT

Fashion truly is art. We are living in the golden age of new museums and exhibits being formed to preserve and archive these functional pieces for all to enjoy.

If you have never seen a couture garment up close, you have to see them in person at one of the many museums or traveling exhibits focusing on this art form.

(Yes, you can go visit one of the modern stores of the designers to see the work. Many of the staff are gracious and appreciative of the attention on the art forms they sell. But it is a STORE. Not all are willing to hear “just looking” and it kills the experience if you feel like the poor country cousin who’s lucky to make it to the big city.)

For international Museum Day, we wanted to focus on just three to start with.

First stop: New York City.

Besides the Costume Institute at the Met, there is an amazing FREE fashion museum at the Goodman Center. The Museum at FIT ( Fashion Institute of Technology) has three types of exhibit space in the museum: special exhibitions, a rotating display of items from the permanent collection, student and faculty shows. It has an amazing online archive to explore for when you cannot visit in person as well as a YouTube channel with 125 videos. New exhibit “Force of Nature” opens at the end of May exploring how nature has inspired fashion designers for centuries.

Museum at FIT
Museum at FIT

Now jumping over to Spain, visit the Balenciaga Museum in San Sebastian, Spain. Focusing only on the work of Cristobal Balenciaga, it uses permanent and special exhibitions to showcase the mastery of the designer. Current special exhibit focuses on the personal collection of Rachel (Bunny) L. Mellon. Site currently also has a digital exhibition in co-op with one of the fashion programs in the region.

Balenciaga Museum
Balenciaga Museum

Our last stop on this mini tour is in Venice, Italy to Palazzo Fortuny, home of Mariano Fortuny. designer of many turn of the century and early 20th century gowns of distinction. Includes his paintings, gowns, textiles and photographs. Wide range of exhibits from the region, covering all eras in addition to exhibits focusing on Fortuny’s own work. YouTube has about 1700 videos for armchair travel.

Palazzo Fortuny
Palazzo Fortuny

Books to explore the designers and the museum locations*:

*I LOVE the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides – great maps, info and depth to learn about a location in one book. You can enjoy it on many levels as they typically have great photos, illustrations and maps.

Met Gala Madness

The Super Bowl of Fashion occurs tonight at the Met Gala in support of the Costume Institute. The new exhibit spotlights designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons. She is the first living designer since Yves Saint Laurent to be honored with the exhibit. BIG STUFF.

So why should we mere mortals care about a fancy party we can’t attend happening in New York City?

Because believe it or not, it will be affecting our clothes, accessories, movies, music, homes and any other thing which intersects between design and entertainment over the next few years. (Lemon yellow.)

The theme is announced in the fall of the previous year to allow designers time to study the work being spotlighted in the upcoming exhibit and become inspired to make new creations for celebrity clients attending the party.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The designers can choose to be influenced by the theme OR they can choose to design clothing that is suitable for a red carpet occasion.

Regardless of which path is chosen, the designers all now have the theme rattling around in their minds whether they want it or not. Seeds planted. Remember that color “Lemon yellow” randomly added a few lines up in this post? That’s how it happens. You will see that color or be sensitive to it everywhere until another color takes precedence.

Why should it matter this year?

If you haven’t seen any of the Comme des Garcons looks throughout the years, imagine every outrageous avante grade look you’ve seen and multiply it by a factor of two. So this should be a very interesting red carpet to see who will wear looks Lady Gaga or Katy Perry (one of the chairs this year) would feel comfortable wearing for a performance.

How does entertainment fit into this? Because most of the invited guests are strategically seated to introduce new people to one another and cross-pollinate connections across the movie, music and fashion design industry to foster new collaborations and ideas.

So get ready for a wild ride. It can be a great thing to disrupt the status quo and see what comes.

Now I’m off to find some Lemon Meringue pie to eat after watching the red carpet shows…

Movies to stream to get a fashion fix:

Books to get inspired by:

Fashion Images from Vogue.com.

Image of Lemon Meringue pie from the Village Inn.