Hand in hand with machine...

by - Monday, July 18, 2016

Patterns seen in a book, on antique ceramic, motifs delicate or dauntless, flowery or geometric, the new interpretation begins to brew in my mind. Knitwear is a little tricky because the fabric stretches, it moves, so it needs careful consideration when planning placement. For any embellishment I first sketch the idea, an outline on paper, size scaled for the garment, and then decide color and stitching, application and material. Tech packs sent to the factory need to be clear and detailed, many times with designated layers of tracing paper to determine separate elements involved. Visualizing the mechanics of the design, elements can include machine embroidery with laser cut applique pieces finished with hand crewel work. It all depends on what the final showpiece is to become. With the emergence of CAD systems, after my initial artwork sketch, I would then scan it to try different color combinations on the computer before finalizing the style. Hand and machine working together...

That is precisely what the latest exhibit at the Met,  Manus x Machina, encompasses. Side by side examples of magical couturier and ready-to-wear from past to present, a deliberate and enlightening melange of fashion methodology. From magnificent embroidery to fancy feather-work, precision cut decorations and tedious handcraft, this show is filled with so much inspiration mere photographs cannot do the garments justice. This showcase is created as a gallery within the museum by way of erected white mesh screen walls, high enclaves and ever present multi-media effects.

With garments simply displayed on dressmaker mannequins, amid a clean atmosphere focus is sharp on detail, with the surround overhead revolving amplified pattern in a planetary display, a visual metaphor of the evolving mechanics of embellishment. Have a look at a video preview of the show.

Coordinated by color and theme, the show takes viewers on a journey through handwork and the emergence of machine aided design elements for exquisite precision in practical and pioneer design.

I love this display... Sequins in three ways - labor intensive hand sewn from the 30's; a trompe l'oeil sequin print on jersey fabric from 1996; machine applied clear sequins to jersey fabric then printed all-over from 2016. All three examples simply stunning individual interpretations, yet cohesive in theme. 


This is a fabulous piece! Made all of hand cut straws individually attached with metal hardware, it resembles a light yet furry modern marabou feather jacket. On the runway, you could hear them before you saw them. And they moved beautifully - like feathers caught in a gust of wind. ~ Gareth Pugh

On the left, the two vintage Grecian gowns incorporate hand fluted bodice details while the piece on the right is printed on a contemporary 3D computer. 

Yes, this was printed on a computer!

Draped by hand and designed on the computer, both methods are unique and harmonious. The joint power of technology and manual work enables us to revive the warmth of the human hand - in other words, we come close to this value inherent in artisanal work. We wish to protect mankind I think that industry and crafts should become more interdependent... I hope to continue bringing craft and industry together in order to produce work which will provoke humor, fun, and emotion. ~ Issey Miyake

This coral masterpiece was also completely printed on a computer. Such unequivocal detail and the texture is extraordinary! I think computers are amazing tools to help you on your journey, and to help you arrive at a certain destination, but the brain will always be our greatest tool. ~Christopher Kane

A bit of old fashioned nostalgia here... This wedding gown from 1870 is completely crocheted by hand. The delicate nuances of the floral pattern and needlework of the Irish crochet is sumptuous and another one of my favorites from the show.

Leather is laser cut and strapped together with metallic studs.

Tiny sequins are machine stitched to perfection in graduated color to resemble the ombre curved color of scaled shells.

Laser cut leather appliqued by hand on sheer. 

Whether to use the hand or the machine is never completely apparent... Your decision has to be informed. It's not simply a choice of one or the other. I think it's an exciting part of the process, actually, not knowing how you will execute a garment until it says, 'This is right for now. This is what fashion feels like at the moment'. ~Nicolas Ghesquière

The show has been extended until September 5th. If you appreciate art-to-wear and are so lucky to be in the city, set aside a couple of hours to aquaint yourself with the fashionable relationship hand in hand with machine... xoxo-Sonya

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