This fall, New Haven is getting a taste of the fashion industry from the art world.
Crosby Street Gallery, a pop-up gallery founded in 2009 by artists Julie Chan ’05, Robert Sanchez ’05 and Jeff Badillo, featured an exhibition titled “The Art of Fashion” at its Orange Street location that opened its doors this past August.
The exhibit was inspired by Made in Midtown, a collaborative project between the Design Trust for Public Space and the Council for Fashion Designers of America. Featuring a series of talks, Made in Midtown aims to revitalize the fashion industry and the Garment District within New York City.
While New Haven has a very lively art scene, there is little in the way of a fashion scene. The Yale community experiences fashion through vintage stores and campus-geared retailers, as a product more than an artform or a method of expression. The University doesn’t take fashion very seriously and hasn’t offered any courses in the field outside of the School of Drama’s “Patternmaking,” “Advanced Patternmaking” and “Costume Production” courses.
An active interest, particularly by a gallery partially headed by Yale alumni, is an important step toward the industry’s recognition in the city of New Haven.
The idea for “The Art of Fashion,” arguably the first manifestation of a fashion scene in New Haven, grew out of a comment Sanchez heard at a Made in Midtown talk in New York City.
“At the talk, one of the audience members commented that people might be more interested in the future of the fashion industry if they were aware of the production process,” he said.
The Crosby Street Gallery decided to put on an exhibition that would highlight the creative and production elements of the fashion industry, putting together a collection, according to their newsletter, “of neo-Victorian dresses, fashion-inspired sculptures, design sketches, and drawings by New York City and New Haven-based artists.”
The exhibition features prints by Matt Boyle, drawings by Veronica Cianfrano, design sketches by Nikki Delhomme ART ’13 and dresses by Silas Finch and Zoh Rothberg for Morrigan New York.
The centerpiece is a dress constructed by New Haven-based sculptor Silas Finch. Finch works with found objects ranging from old skateboards and picture frames to lampposts and revolvers, relics from an antique medicine cabinet to Christ figures and skeletal animal remains. The dress, really a parachute draped over a dress form, towers at over three meters in height and strikes a very phantasmagoric image.
Also featured are dresses from the Poe and Moby Dick lines of Morrigan New York, created by Zoh Rothberg with designs by Matt Boyle. The dresses are in the Lolita style, a Victorian- and gothic-influenced fashion that originated in Japan and characteristically features modest and ornate clothing.
At the exhibition’s opening reception on October 16, Zoh Rothberg demonstrated the creation of one of her Moby Dick dresses live, which also functioned as the launch event for the latest collection.
But in such an easily exploited fashion world as ours, the exhibition had to take precautions to preserve the integrity of the pieces showcased. Morrigan asked the Crosby Street Gallery not to sell any of the silkscreen prints currently on view along with the clothing due to a fear of copyright infringement. Manufacturers overseas often buy Morrigan’s clothing to reproduce and sell into the Japanese market inexpensively. Without the separate silk prints, however, the knockoff dresses will not resemble the originals as accurately.
Sketches by Delhomme for a performance of Richard III for “A Noise Within” examined the copyright issue from the design angle.
“I find it fascinating that the sketches are copyrighted but the final dresses are not,” Sanchez said.
He also commented that the sketches feed in to the overall theme of the exhibition well, which portrays the theatrical side of fashion.
On October 22, the gallery hosted a fashion stroll to celebrate Halloween. The idea was both fun and financially savvy: visitors could come to look at and buy clothing on offer from Elm City Handmade, Morrigan New York and other local vintage stores, and then present them on the runway later that night.
Unfortunately, this Saturday marks the exhibition’s last day, at which point the gallery will be closing before reopening for a holiday sale.
Hopefully the exhibit will inspire more of an interest in the craft of fashion and its overlap with art in New Haven and around the Yale campus in the months to come.
“The Art of Fashion,” a theatrical journey through the process of fashion cre