Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fashion vs. Art

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Fashion vs. Art

Fashion occupies a prime position in our culture and economy. But is it art?
By ANDREW ROSSI on Publish Date April 15, 2016. Watch in Times Video »
When I first discovered the power of documentaries, one film that truly inspired me was “Unzipped,” a quintessential fashion documentary. To make this film, the director, Douglas Keeve, followed one of the era’s most successful high-fashion designers, Isaac Mizrahi, as he planned his fall 1994 collection. Mr. Keeve’s romantic connection to his subject seems to inform every gorgeous black-and-white frame of 16-millimeter film. This type of character-driven story can make for a riveting movie, and as a filmmaker I am captivated by figures who can draw my camera’s lens in a similarly magnetic way.
The editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour, is one of those rare people. So when I had the opportunity to enter her world and follow her work with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, I embraced the challenge of capturing an icon of popular culture. But equally exciting was the prospect of unpacking many complex assumptions that go into our culture’s celebration of fashion, through a combination of vérité filmmaking and analytical argument.
This Op-Doc goes behind the scenes at the Met and the celebrity-laden gala Ms. Wintour holds there each spring for its Costume Institute. In both this short and parts of my related feature “The First Monday in May,” I have tried to retreat from the fanfare — the layers of organizations, fans and consumers that make the fashion industry chug along — and ask why and how fashion occupies such a vaunted position in our culture and economy. I think the answer lies somewhere among the stunning works of painting and sculpture inside the Met. Here, works of fashion are interpreted in an art historical context that elevates what we are looking at beyond a consumer good or star vehicle. As I hope you see through the beautiful costumes in this film, ranging from antiquity to the red carpet frocks of Rihanna and Lady Gaga, fashion is certainly capable of serving as art — if you know where to look.

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