“A Fashion of Theory” Exhibition

As part of the Parsons Paris 2019 Graduation Exhibition, May 17 to 19 at the Mona Bismarck American Center, the MA Fashion Studies department presented A Fashion of Theory. 

Theory has never been so fashionable in the fashion industry. While artistic director Alessandro Michele from Gucci quotes Gilles Deleuze in his press releases, Dior is employing psychoanalysis theorists to contextualize their collections. In this presentation, we reflect on this “fashion of theory” by highlighting issues that have characterized the study of fashion in academic and non-academic circles. How has fashion been studied? By who? In which contexts? And what perspectives have been developed about fashion?

The installation invites visitors to reflect on these questions and take a journey through a selection of historical and contemporary books, videos, documents and magazines. Each section gathers these materials under themes that have contributed to defining fashion as a cultural phenomenon and have delineated a canon in the academic field of fashion studies. Without trying to be comprehensive, A Fashion of Theory brings visitors to reflect on the multiple issues connected to the study of fashion starting from a presentation of some press releases citing or quoting theorists, like the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. By showing the original contexts in which these ideas were initially conceived, we invite visitors to observe how these communicational materials may deny or enhance the ideas they are quoting. Here we look at these actions of appropriation and association as ways to challenge not only contemporary fashion practices but also what critical thinking may represent today. A copy of Frieze Magazine’s titled “What happened to theory” (2009) denounces a crisis of theory in contemporary art and design school, whereas an extract from the movie Funny Face (1957) inverts the stereotypes behind the perception of fashion and philosophy in society. Not only the philosophical current of “Existentialism” is satirized into “Emphaticalism” but here philosophers become portants of lower moral values than fashion actors.

A Fashion of Theory hints at this intriguing endeavour while functioning as an introduction to Research Folios, showcasing the projects of the 2019 MA Fashion Studies graduating students.