Welcome to our first museum/exhibition review! In May I had a chance to visit El Museo del Traje in Madrid and I’m happy to recommend a must-see destination for any post-paris fashion lovers. Located in an imposing monumental structure within Madrid’s urban greenway, this museum offers a splendidly curated look at the evolution of garments, styles and social attitudes towards clothing. Opened in 2004, its own history is a testament to the growing importance of fashion. Its collection began in 1925 and for decades migrated among historical, ethnographical, anthropological venues… until its current home as a Museum in its own right. Unlike recent blockbuster Valentino-Gautier-McQueen global exhibitions that have catapulted fashion into sightseeing brochures, Madrid’s is a deceptively low key affair. The ten small halls focus on different eras and couture personalities (mostly Spanish). If you expect to be wowed and dazzled, you gonna have to pay close attention. The dim lighting and low temperature works to preserve fabrics, some dating back to 1500s! The labor intensive embroidery of regional “costumes” is mind-boggling. If you stoop low (I mean, physically) you’ll encounter a fascinating lineup of gloves and socks in one of the windows. Neither is a fetish of mine, but I spent a good 20 minutes looking at these oft-overlooked “accessories”. Then I got to see a fantastic Paco Rabanne dress (off my editorial bucket list) and a few Christian Dior originals that still f*cking look “better” than much of contemporary designer output. There was even an exhaustive section on dolls (!) which reminded me of my earlier rhetorical WTF regarding this subject. #HappyVisitor
A true highlight of the visit was a brilliantly conceived “collaboration” between designer Assaad Awad (who put Lady Gaga in a tree bark dress) and THE Cristobal Balenciaga! In a first of what promises to be a series of commissions (yes please!!!), a zeitgeist designer gets access to museum’s archives with an idea to produce garments and objects inspired by and in dialogue with the material heritage and ephemeral legacy of fashions past… Awad PLAYS Balenciaga is on display through October 28 and honestly, this is by far a superior way to nurture upcoming talent as opposed to current corporate practice of committing any promising designer to haute couture servitude in the name of some almighty Brand. Check out Awad’s Instagram for more insights into his creative process.
There was only one thing missing. An omission as understandable as it is glaring. I’d love to see El Museo del Traje address the role of Spain in proliferation of Fast Fashion. Where is the Inditex Hall?! Ahahaha… but seriously, Zara & co. are overdue some critical retrospective. I think THIS might be just the right space to mount such an effort with predictable biases in check. I look forward to be back for the opening reception! P.S. El Museo del Traje has an amazing virtual tour. Check it out in absentia before your check it out in person. The latter is highly recommended nonetheless. And follow Post-Paris Fashion on Facebook where our first header image was a tribute to El Museo del Traje 🙂