China Through the Looking Glass – East Embraces West

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With Anna Wintour at the institute’s helm, this year’s exhibit China: Through the Looking Glass at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a is a celebration of fashion, cinema, ideas and creativity. It’s a kick ass combination of Traditional elements with a quasi-runway-exotic nightclub vibe as you are led through a maze of cultural and visual riches through the museum’s Chinese Wing it’s fantastic reprieve from the heat and humidity of summer in New York city, trust me ).

China: Through the Looking Glass celebrates the influence of Chinese culture on Western fashion and reveals how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. Intertwining haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, juxtaposed with film and masterpieces of Chinese costume and art, the show includes film clips, soundtracks, traditional Chinese arts, textiles, and sculptures of jade, bronze, lacquer and porcelain.

The exhibition includes the work of 40 designers, The show’s subtitle “Through the Looking Glass” translates into Chinese as “Moon in the Water,” a nod to Buddhism. Featuring a smattering of looks from the films of Wong Kar Wai amongst others, generations of cultural appropriation make for smashing fashion eye candy fashionistas. The visual appeal of this unique curation is stunning. Pictures don’t do it justice, you simply must see it for yourself before Labor Day weekend 2015 when it ends.

Oh to be Anna Leonowens, an attractive school teacher, descending down the staircase sporting a billowing blown up silk ball gown as in The King and I, (similar to a Balenciagas gown of today). At first blush, Mr. King of Siam would have emplored me to stay and give birth to yet more bambino’s. Oh how I love a snowplow of a dress that takes over a room. Lest I digress…

Even larger than the Alexander McQueen show from a few years back, the exhibition encompasses almost 30,000 square feet over multiple floors and is indeed a feast for the senses. Haute couture dresses (the fashion spans the mid-1700s to the present), and product design all influenced by Chinese culture are juxtaposed with one another.

“Fashion is not something that exists only in dresses. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, and what is happening around us.” Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai repeated Coco Chanel’s famous sentiment in his opening speech at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It shows how similar the East and West can be. It is clear this show is a huge opportunity to bring the two hemispheres together.

All of the garments are displayed using the simple forms of the bespoke Schläppi mannequin which were made exclusively for the event. The headgear is exquisite, the contrast stunning. A series of dresses by John Galliano for Dior and recycled opera garments from the 1930’s by Martin Margiela delight. Two 18th Century Robes a la Polonaise remind us of the past. With the Phenomenal Alexander McQueen (my all time favorite designer who used to be on the planet), Givenchy (the black dress with the white dragon) and Yves Saint Laurent all on display, how could you not be impressed? A stunning strapless gown of gold filigree on a gold lamé (2007) stands like a sunrise on a shiny black glass podium. One collection of dresses looks as if the designers copied patterns from porcelain shapes into the fabric design.

The 2015 Costume Institute Benefit, overseen by the queen herself, Vogue’s Anna Wintour, was held on the May 4th, 2015 and marked the opening of the exhibition. The world’s fashionistas turned out in designer-drenched splendor to show off the latest couture. Some quests went couture crazy and followed the theme while others played it safe. With events like this seen by hundred’s of millions of people let’s face it, strutting the Red Carpet anywhere is no cake walk. Fashion Police from Hollywood to Hong Kong are waiting to relish or rip into your outfit and tabloid TV commentators and of course every at home fashion viewer with aspirations are all eager to weigh in on FB & Twitter. With all that pressure, no celebrity formal wear is safe to the world.

It took over two years to create Rihanna’s mindblowing haute couture yellow gown with embroidery and fur detail for the Gala. Yellow was the other version of Imperial China. One can only imagine the hours and hours of handwork and a whole lotta sweat that went into it. It’s a dying art – I am in awe. Rihanna was trashed in some tabloids, however, in my eyes, Grrrl, you take va va voom to another level. We’ll leave the modest frocks to others. You’re thrown to the wolves if you play it too safe and ridiculed if you take it too far. Bottom line ladies, wear what you want and feel fabulous and forget what others think.

The genius thing about fashion is there are no limits, which means it’s always magical. Let’s just hope that “couture” doesn’t suffer the same fate as that other fabulous french word, champagne!

Take some time and immerse yourself in this once in a lifetime experience. What I love most is it spotlights Asian Fashion on a global level, giving a voice to many unknowns in the industry.

Exciting stuff and a good dose of inspiration for the fashionista. Food Stalker promise.

 

* Be sure to take in the paintings too. You may just see The Food Stalker in all her leopard boot glory…

* Pro tip: Don’t ever be fooled into paying $20 for a ticket to the MET. Admission to the museum is donation-based, so you can pay nothing and still be let in.)

* Check out The Met Store Magazine for fashion inspired accesories by world-renowned designers:  http://www.metstoreblog.org/china-through-the-looking-glass-design-collection/

* Extended through Labor Day Monday Sept 7th 2015


With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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