THE 2015 MET EXHIBIT, CHINA: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Fashion has no greater muse than culture. It could even be called a fascination- an obsession. The art of dressing has always revolved around the idea of presentation and for many cultures these practices have become sacred. For the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest exhibit, China: Through the looking Glass, we explore the significance of Chinese aesthetics on fashion in the Western world.

Jean Paul Gautier Gown. FW 2001 Collection.

Jean Paul Gautier Gown. FW 2001 Collection.


What exactly is culture you ask? The dictionary definition would note: the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. While cultural references are unavoidable in the fashion world and any form of art for that matter, there’s always a fine line between appreciation and  appropriation. Because of the relative youth of the Western world and the complex mixed cultural make up and history, the boundary between borrowed and stolen must be drawn meticulously.

 

China presents a richly enticing opportunity for introspection. From Europe’s first contact with China in the sixteenth century to today’s globalized sharing of business and economy, both cultures have been undoubtedly been shaped by the other. These influences can be seen in the works of some of fashion’s most notable designers including: Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Daughter of the Dragon, .Film Still. 1931

Daughter of the Dragon, .Film Still. 1931


While the verdict is still out on the cultural relevance of the exhibit, this is certainly a step in the appropriate direction. Through the more than one hundred examples of haute couture and avant-garde collection pieces juxtaposed alongside Chinese art and film, perhaps we all will truly take a glimpse into China: Through the looking Glass.

by Lakenya Kelly


All photos// The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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