Freelancer and aspiring journalist from Adelaide. Visual Arts graduate & current journalism student. Fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, art & food. I also write for The Adelaidian // theadelaidian.net/author/georgina-tselekidis
Published June 5th 2016
A ticket into the fashion event of the year
Take a private behind the scenes tour of one of the biggest and most exclusive fashion events of the year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 'Met Gala'. In 2015, 'China: Through the Looking Glass' was the most attended exhibition in fashion history, exploring Chinese-inspired Western fashions by Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. Alongside renowned fashion icon and Vogue editor in-chief Anna Wintour, this documentary broadens our horizons and perceptions of fashion and how it's seen and interpreted as art or merely 'applied art', as quoted by Karl Lagerfield, head designer and creative director of Chanel and Fendi. Similarly, we see some of the biggest fashion influencers take part in an exquisite exhibition and documentary that draws inspiration from Eastern culture in a conceptual, historical, aesthetic and artistic context.
Photo Courtesy of Screendaily
A lavish evening for a worthy cause, the Met Gala serves as the most important fundraiser of the year for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with China: Through the Looking Glass raising over $12 million. The documentary explores the late Alexander McQueen's fashion revolution, which sparked this notion of fashion as art, theatre and performance. Meanwhile, the Met's exhibition 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' in 2011 was the most popular gala to date, which set high expectations for curator Andrew Bolton. With a year to prepare, a team of industry professionals from diverse areas of expertise come together to formulate and execute the most anticipated event of the fashion calendar.
From seating arrangements, budgets, design, opposing views, lighting, historical sensitivities and more, filmmaker Andrew Rossi successfully captures the process in its entirety and rawness. Similarly, we see this conceptual debate of whether fashion is art, particularly when it involves cultural sensitivities. Andrew Bolton attempts to convey the beauty and artistic influence that Asian design, film and art play on Western visual interpretation, without crossing the line or going overboard with an overhaul of stereotype facets. We see Hong Kong artist Wong Kar-wei play a significant role in the direction of the event also. Likewise, American and European designers like Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano for Christian Dior interpret and showcase Eastern design and culture into their past pieces.
Photo Courtesy of Vogue
Anna Wintour is a major interest of the film. She's perceived and compared to the Dragon Lady by social contexts, which is a phrase referring to a treacherous, domineering, or tyrannical woman. Similarly, a Dragon Lady is usually a stereotype of East Asian and occasionally South Asian women as strong, deceitful, or mysterious. However the term's origin and usage is Western, not Chinese and was inspired by the characters played by actress Anna May Wong. It has since been applied and used to refer to any powerful woman, usually in a derogatory fashion. This is also evident through the uncanny resemblance to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. However, Wintour challenges this stereotype, as she's confronted with haywire rumours and exaggerated portrayals. Hiding her expression with designer sunglasses and never without a Starbucks cup, Wintour's compelling presence is difficult to ignore, which has come with an almost fearsome reputation, some labeling her as 'intimidating'. However, Rossi digs deeper, and we see Wintour fearlessly face each question thrown her way 'It's what you do with the stereotype that matters'.
Photo Courtesy of Pagesdigital
With time running out, months are passing, the gala is nearing and the pressure is on. Fortunately, everything comes together superbly, and we're given VIP access into the forefront of China: Through the Looking Glass. A grandiose entrance exudes elegance, appropriation and an affluent yet subtle historical ambiance. Stars are dressed and adorned head-to-toe with the gala's primary theme; opulent detail, headpieces, intricate design, elusive sheer and embellished gowns do not disappoint. The show stopper is Rihanna, who's appearance is an important one throughout the documentary and as one of the world's most influential stars to brace the red carpet with her to die for gown designed by Chinese designer Guo Pei who combines the imperial yellow color with the Qing dynasty imperial yellow; stealing our hearts at first sight.
As the film concludes and reaches the end, a stunning, beautiful and serene scene of the exhibition standing alone brings shivers, as the utterly stunning gowns contrast against their impeccable staging and historical artifacts, with Andrew Bolton almost 'having a moment' with his hard work. The film definitely creates a visceral reaction from both the couture incorporated and the artifacts that are displayed in the museum space, whilst also being a tribute to the narrative behind the exhibition. Whether fashion is recognised as art or not, there is no doubt that it is a primary means of self-expression, conceptual notions, historical influences, artistic impacts and more. 'Creating' is an artistic process in itself and we see these theories and conversations develop throughout the film.