[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Metropolitan’s newest exhibit at the Costume Institute is not one to be compared to recent shows past. Curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton had the desire to create a show that centered its focus on women. The current show at the Costume Institute is the first to focus solely on a female designer in seven years, its last being the Coco Chanel show in 2005. It is a noted change of pace after coming off the high that was “Savage Beauty” Alexander McQueen’s retrospective; “Impossible Conversations” is a more understated study of the relationship between designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.
Although it may center on the female, “Impossible Conversations” is far from a dry feminist study. The name and the idea for the show is taken from a segment featured in Vanity Fair during the 1930s with the same title. It was an almost surreal series that fabricated conversations between important figures from all areas, one of which included Schiaparelli and Stalin (of which Schiaparelli won). Koda and Bolton wanted a visual of the two designers conversing and solicited the expertise of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, to digitally compose it. Using separately filmed interview clips of Prada and Australian actress Judy Davis whom played Schiaparelli, Luhrmann makes the impossible conversation possible. First projected in the beginning of the exhibit, the dialogue continues on and off throughout the show.
The show is broken down room by room, allowing the designers’ work to speak on its own in some areas while focusing more on the comparison and similarities in other areas. A sort of marriage of designs is displayed in two categories “dark chic” and “naïf chic”. “Dark chic” has the dominating influence of Prada; clearly made for the adult, “dark chic” displays baroque, and polished pieces that seem to cast an uneasy feeling in the space. In contrast Schiaparelli reigns in “naïf chic”, with dresses in youthful shapes and fantastically absurd fabrics.
The final gallery, a surrealistic and disorienting hall of mirrors and cases, created by artist Nathan Crowley, is the area that strangely lets the viewer see the designs of Schiaparelli and Prada most clearly. It is in the final act where the single pieces are given their time to speak. Several well known pieces are displayed in the final gallery, where they exist together in a single space while also commanding the sole attention of the viewer.
Photos courtesy of: