The Great Gatsby may be pulling down four stars in theatres, but In The Style Of …. , Surrey Museum’s temporary early 20th Century fashion exhibit, earns gold stars from me.
Bathed in appropriately flattering lighting, Valentino, McQueen, Schiaparelli, LaCroix, Dior, and other brilliant names, return to the spotlight courtesy of insightful interpretations by Kwantlen Polytechnic University fashion program students.
Kayla Shimbashi was motived by Alexander McQueen creations after viewing a collection on a class trip to New York in 2011. With a whimsical use of wires incorporated into her design, she explains, “I was particularly inspired by McQueen’s softer romanticism and contrast with the strength and hardness that his garments bring to the wearer.”
“Trees during winter evoke similar feelings in me that Alexander McQueen’s designs do,” she says, pointing out the paint, wire, and twine used to incorporate those sentiments into her work.
Amy Wan and Denise Mok are also completing their second Kwantlen Fashion Design program year. Despite being cousins, their fashion choices were unrelated.
Influenced by Madame Grès, a Parisienne whose clients included Jaqueline Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor, Wan incorporated a combination of pearls and draping in her interpretation. Classical, sophisticated, and playfully daring, an almost Greek influence comes into play with her one bare shoulder design.
Christian Dior, one of fashion’s most enduring names, attracted Mok. Selecting a dramatic midnight blue satin, she demonstrated a wasp-waisted cocktail dress reminiscent of the 1940s.
[Kayla Shimbashi’s designs were influenced by Alexander McQueen. Photo Ursula Maxwell-Lewis]
Unlike Dior, however, Mok’s design was more fabric conscious. During WW11 Dior was severely censured for his cavalier use of yards of fabric – a luxury rationed to the average citizen.
Browsing the collection, there the unmistakeable daring flare of Schiaparelli. The ‘Gender Rebellion’ is noted, and should make visitors smile. Politics, the computer generation and intrigues were all clearly considered in this well-thought-out collection. Negin Izad Negahdari transports museum visitors into current 21st Century news with a show-stopping take on a 3-D printer polymer liquid fashion statement.
For me, the fashion names are a step back in time to my history, too.
Like author Paul Gallico’s Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, the delightful London charwoman who dreamed of owning a Dior gown, my generation (forgive me) ‘swooned’ over stars sporting not just Haute Couture, but the stunning fabrics now often seen only in museums.
Interesting to note Balmain, a particular favourite of mine, was not in evidence – nor Norman Hartnell, the darling of British royalty. Unlike Dior, Hartnell had to be more post-war savvy when crafting Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress in 1947. Her ration coupons had to be used to buy the fabric.
[Capri Phillip design in the style of Valentino Garavani. Photo: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis]
Years later my friend Dani’s mother sewed for Hartnell in London. You can bet your boots I envied my mate’s clothes, and the panache with which she wore them.
Pausing at Tyler Frose’s elegant tuxedo-influenced Saint Laurent black suit, I smiled. I remember my mother, trim in an identical suit, accented with a sheer Shocking Pink blouse.
Meeting the students was a pleasure, their designs are a treat, and the Surrey Museum exhibit showcase does them all credit.
Whether, like me, you take a walk down memory lane, or just enjoy an introduction to history’s famous fashion designers, don’t miss “In the Style Of…” at Surrey Museum, 17710-57A Ave., Surrey. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Visit www.Surrey.ca/Heritage, or call 604-592-6956.
– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a Surrey-based freelance writer and photographer. Her closest encounter with designers is thanks to Duty Free perfume.