Art, Fashion & Identity
The Royal Academy has been showing a very innovative exhibition in the beautiful old building of the Haunch of Venison, called Aware: Art, Fashion and Identity. The theme definitely intrigued me so I decided to finally go and visit it recently.
The concept was based around the notion that clothing defines or is defined by our identity and becomes an art form. The idea was explored through over thirty works created by fashion designers -like Alexander McQueen, Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto- and artists -such as Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry, Cindy Sherman.
Divided into four parts: Storytelling, Building, Performance, Belonging and Confronting; the exhibition showed extravagant displays of extreme fashion, but also more subtle designs that have a special meaning for the wearer. Some pieces of clothing also explored technology and sustainability such as a the piece “Say Goodbye”: a dress made of a biodegradable textile that dissolved in water, created by Helen Storey.
Other displays that caught my attention (above) included an installation by Hussein Chalayan, with a white figure wearing a lit dress attacked by dark shadows. The display, inspired by Bunraku Theatre, a traditional form a Japanese puppet theatre, examined the manipulative element of the fashion industry.
Also using the idea that fashion blinds us, and inspired by the burning of St Joan of Arc, was a famous red lace dress that covers head and face created by innovator Alexander McQueen for his 1998 fashion show.
A quote from Miuccia Prada, in the March issue of British Vogue, summarises it all to me: “Fashion is an incredible instrument, because it’s an instant way of saying and seeing things. People in other fields envy the speed of fashion and its ability to capture things, and even if it’s superficial, it’s still telling you something.”
Image credits: Left: Dress by Alexander McQueen, 1998. Right: ‘Son of Sonzai Suru’ by Hussein Chalayan, 2010. Photography by Alize Morand.