A Walk on the Dark Side

FIT's new exhibit explores Gothic: Dark Glamour
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

(NEW YORK) Fashion is about to get dark. Really dark.

From September 5 to February 21, 2009, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) will stage an exhibition entitled "Gothic: Dark Glamour," the first collection of works devoted to the gothic style in fashion.

Set in a dramatic mise-en-scène, more than 75 ensembles will be displayed by the likes of Ann Demeulemeester, Boudicca, Comme des Garçons, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Haute Couture, John Galliano for Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Hussein Chalayan, Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein, Christian Lacroix, Derek Lam, Gareth Pugh, Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Thierry Mugler, Rodarte, Jun Takahashi of Undercover and Yohji Yamamoto.
Also on display will be a range of sub-cultural styles, such as "old-school goth" (associated with the heyday of the goth subculture, 1979-83), Victorian-style goth, industrial, steam punk and cyber-goth by designers such as Kambriel, Morphius and Plastik Wrap, as well as Japanese Elegant Gothic Lolitas by Tokyo-based brands Moi-Même-Moité and h.Naoto Blood.
"Although popularly identified with black-clad teenagers and rock musicians, the gothic has also been an important theme in contemporary fashion," said Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT and curator of the exhibit. "The imagery of death and decay, the power of horror, and the erotic macabre are perversely attractive to many designers. For example, John Galliano told me that he saw the 'Gothic girl' as 'edgy and cool, vampy and mysterious,' while the most recent Rodarte collection was inspired by Japanese horror films."
An introductory gallery will trace the development of gothic style from its origins in the eighteenth-century gothic literature of terror to its contemporary manifestations in art, fashion, and film. The Victorian cult of mourning, for example, will be illustrated by actual mourning dresses, crepe veils, and memento mori jewelry. A "Cabinet of Curiosities" will feature objects such as a wax head and the death mask of a poet. The vampire vignette will include one of Eiko Ishioka's costumes for the film Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Simon Costin, the British artist, jeweler and set designer who has worked on many fashion shows, served as art director for "Gothic: Dark Glamour." Costin worked with exhibition designer Charles B. Froom to create an appropriately gothic mise-en-scène. The main gallery space is designed as a labyrinth, divided into iconic spaces such as Night, with seductive black evening dresses; the Ruined Castle, which conveys a sense of the Dark Ages; and the Laboratory, where futuristic fashion "monsters" are created. Towering in the background is the Haunted Palace, which evokes Edgar Allan Poe's architectural metaphor for a disturbed mind.
An illustrated book, also called Gothic: Dark Glamour, will accompany the exhibit and expands on the themes addressed. Steele co-authored the title along with with Jennifer Park, coordinator of special programs at The Museum at FIT.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a wide range of public programs, including a Tim Burton film series (featuring Sweeney Todd and Corpse Bride, among others), a Goth Talk panel discussion on October 30 (with speakers including Fred H. Berger, editor of Propaganda, Mistress McCutchan and Evan Michelson of Obscura), gallery readings of Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe gothic classics and exhibition tours.

The program series will culminate in the museum's annual Fashion Symposium on February 13-14, 2009, which takes as its theme Subculture and Style.