Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sidewalk Catwalk: Meet the Mannequins

The Fashion Center opened, "Sidewalk Catwalk," its long-in-the-making summer public art exhibition, today, and I was on hand to see the unveiling of 32 mannequins dressed by superstar designers--including Kenneth Cole, Betsey Johnson, Isaac Mizrahi, Nicole Miller, Rebecca Taylor, and Donna Karan--and local fashion students. The mannequins will posed in the plazas of the Fashion District, along Broadway from 35 Street to 42nd Street in Manhattan, through September 3.

The project, meant to highlight New York's fashion industry, is brilliant in several ways:

1) It presented a real and compelling challenge that many of the designers probably hadn't faced before: creating "outfits" out of durable materials that could remain outside and stand up to the city elements all summer long (some designers were successful at that, incorporating a variety of materials from a parachute to bricks, but I foresee a sad fate for others' garments). Essentially, the mannequins became sculptures and the designers, many of whom often use visual arts to inspire their clothing collections, had to turn the tables and use their vision for clothing as the impetus for an artwork.

2) It's the kind of public art project that, when stumbled upon by the unsuspecting pedestrian, is likely to provoke wonder, curiosity, and awe, in the much same way that this Sarah Sze sculpture did for me in 2006.

3) The custom Ralph Pucci mannequins were the perfect muses for the designers, given their streamlined shapes, faceless figures, and their already well-established connection to the art world.

4) The juxtaposition and close proximity of the mannequins to Antony Gormley's much less commercial public exhibition, "Event Horizon"-- 31 sculptures of the artist naked, standing in Madison Square Park and peering somberly down from nearby rooftops-- makes me chuckle.

5) It's for a good cause. All of the mannequins will be auctioned to benefit Materials for the Arts.

Pictured above is Prabal Gurung's mannequin design-- now go see the rest!