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The Fashion Videos That Stopped Us In Our Tracks At The New Met Exhibit

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    Photo: Courtesy of Iris Van Herpen.

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    Is fashion art? It certainly can be — but most people wouldn't argue that the mechanization of production, the fast-fashion-ification of the creative process, and the introduction of high-tech have made the act of making clothes more of a business than an art. In short: Technology and fashion belong in a retail space, not a museum. But The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute is challenging that notion, and doing a fine job of it, too.

    At a press conference this morning for the new Manus ex Machina exhibit, Apple's chief design officer, Jonathan Ive, spoke about technology's place within fashion: "Once even the simple metal needle challenged the conventional thinking of the time. It is the amount of care invested, whether machine-made or handmade that transforms ordinary modest materials into something extraordinary." After all, without the care of an atelier premiere, a swath of fabric would just be a sheet; without the expertise of a digital sculptor, a block of nylon polyamide would just be a paperweight. Though our tools are different these days — thanks to technology — the products designers create are just as impressive today as they were centuries ago.

    While the museum focuses solely on techniques like leatherwork, pleating, and embroidery that span centuries (at the omission of newer fashion categories like wearables, light technology, and performance materials — and indie designers who are pioneers in the space like Chromat and Anrealage), the exhibit provides plenty of opportunities for you to go slack-jawed at the workmanship, via both man and machine, that go into a single garment. The fashion is incredible to see up close, but it's the accompanying video that's shown alongside each look that really turns this exhibit into something that'll give your brain fireworks. From a dress whose rubber spikes were shaped by magnets to the mesmerizing process by which the world's most famous pleats are created, these are man-meets-machine making-of videos that need to be seen.

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    Iris van Herpen is the undisputed queen of the exhibit (and the final word in nearly every section about how badass technology can be). Just check out this 3D-printed video — it takes one sculptor weeks to draw a bodice and an entire week to print it out.

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    The white wings flocking this golden column dress by Hussein Chalayan turn into flying moth rockets when triggered by a remote.

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    That dress at 1:16? It's a simple cotton minidress that's coated with a thick rubber and metal powder mixture that Iris van Herpen manipulated with magnets to coax out spikes and peaks before the mixture hardened.

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    This whole documentary is amazing, but check out the pleating process at 24:15. You'll see how Issey Miyake's famous Pleats Please crinkles are created.

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    Here's the Chanel finale wedding dress that inspired the whole exhibit. Karl Lagerfeld was quoted as describing this look as “haute couture without the couture.” While there is plenty of handiwork that went into the dress (from the hand-embroidered buttons to the hand-molded shape), the dress is machine sewn and the print on it is actually a digital manipulation of Lagerfeld’s sketches.