A new exhibition, The Extraordinary Process, asks nine designers to explore innovative technologies through the medium of fashion.
Just what roles will fashion and design play in the future? Nine gifted designers and architects were asked this question for The Extraordinary Process, a new exhibition at Maison Mais Non. Evolving from discussions between the Soho gallery, the late architect Zaha Hadid and her colleague Patrik Schumacher, the show explores innovative technologies through the medium of fashion.
‘There was quite a simple brief for the designers,’ curator Lou Stoppard told the New York Times earlier this month. “What have you always wished your clothing could do? What demands and expectations will we have of our clothing in the future? I think, at the moment, we think of our clothes in an aesthetic way … Few of us have expectations that our clothing will protect us, help us with daily routines, medicate us or act as digital forums.’
It’s a magnificent line-up of names at work here: from those for whom tech is embedded in their practice (Schumacher, also head of the AA Design Research Lab, Minimaforms, XO and Iris Herpen) and those involved in material innovation (Peter Do, Phoebe English and Krystyna Kozhoma) to those not normally linked with technology, milliner Stephen Jones and Nasir Mazhar.
For some, the response to the brief has a strong functional element, inspired by issues around sustainability. Interested in finding ways to condense the wardrobe into a few self-customising items, Do uses a cellophane-based yarn to create a unisex coat, sweater and boots which will be able to adapt to their wearer, through new technologies or fabrics.
English, known for her passion in craft, considers fashion’s role in providing shelter. Her ‘shell’ creation – made from a smocked blend of acetate and fishing wire – may appear fragile but is in fact extremely self-sufficient. ‘In a future world, the outer surface would be able to take resources, such as water, wind and solar power, from the outside world in order to make a completely self-sustaining environment for its inhabitant,’ explains the blurb.
Visionary Dutch designer Iris van Herpen considers how the lines between physical and virtual reality will become increasingly blurred. To create continually shifting perceptions, van Herpen constructed a dress from optical light screens. These move gently, changing perceptions between the concrete and the imaginary.
In its spirit and format, The Extraordinary Process celebrates the interdisciplinary approach of Hadid’s work. Videos and toiles, sketches and letters, arranged as part of distinct installations, accompany each item, enriching the visitor’s understanding of process and meaning.
Technology from pioneering communities such as AA Design Research Lab, Minimaforms and XO does the same. Next to English’s shell, intricate woven work from AA Design Research Lab show opportunities for an organic, collective architecture. Van Herpen’s dress is accompanied by Minimaforms’ Emotive City, a glittering framework proposing a mobile city that transforms according to the behaviours of its inhabitants.
Visitors looking for pretty dresses on mannequins may well be disappointed but stick with it. In its complex, challenging nature, The Extraordinary Process is as rich an experience for the mind as it is for the eye, encouraging the viewer to envision new worlds of possibility for both the disciplines it celebrates.
To November 16th. Maison Mais Non, 14 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4DP. www.maisonmaisnon.com