Parsons Paris

MA Fashion Studies Final Exhibition

As the semester is coming to an end, the result of the research work done by the MAFS Year 1 Students and Year 2 will culminate in an exhibition taking place at the American Center for Art and Culture on the 15th and 16th of May. The exhibition will be arranged in three different halls of the Center, each one of them dedicated to a collaborative project between the Program and outside institutions: one with L’Officiel, one with the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa and one with Palais Galliera – Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.

The first hall will exhibit the result of the project in collaboration with Fondation Azzedine Alaïa, a collaboration that started last year. For this project, students focused on one of the most important auctions on fashion – La Création en Liberté. Univers de Paul et Denise Paul Poiret – organised by the auction house Piasa Paris with a special exhibition at the Azzedine Alaïa headquarters in 2005 (10-11th of May). Directed by the expert Françoise Auguet, the auction presented a collection of Paul Poiret’s pieces owned and worn by Denise Poiret – wife of the couturier – and her children. This auction not only became one of the most discussed events in the history of fashion auctions, but it also allowed international museums like the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of New York to build their own collections and exhibitions. The auction became a moment in the history of auctions about fashion for both the amount of collectors and dealers involved and the final amount raised from the selling of the collection. 

This research project explores the auction as a seed through which to explore the universe of Paul Poiret, the construction of heritage, the multiple economic and artistic conventions, the different actors and values. Students have studied the catalogue of the exhibition but also retracing the history of the auction, interviewing the people involved in the making of the exhibition/auction, interviewing collectors involved in the auction as well as curators and academics who worked on the collection. 

Moving on to the second hall, our students will present the collaborative project with Palais Galliera – Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris entitled Objects in Trouble. The exhibition explores issues of decolonization, institutional racism and cultural appropriation in relation to fashion museums’ collections. Divided in groups, students were assigned to four objects from the Galliera Archives. These objects may have, today, a problematic history due to their creators’ or owners’ stories or simply for the context in which they were created. Students were asked to propose a critical and alternative interpretation of these museums’ artifacts. They explore how these objects become entry points which highlight the controversial logics of fashion: from its binary discourses to its actions of profanization of cultures; from its relation to femininity and feminism to its practices of exploitation. These interpretations put fashion on trial, trying to show how these ‘objects in trouble’ should not be simply demonized but rather seen as opportunities to rethink how fashion museums may explain the values of fashion.

The collaborative project made Parsons Paris with L’Officiel on the occasion of their centenary anniversaries in 2021, explores the fashion magazine’s extensive archive. The partnership consists of a variety of activities: from internships to MA thesis projects and a group collaboration overseen by L’Officiel Consulting Global Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi. This marks the very first time that L’Officiel has opened up the magazine’s digital and physical archive for academic study.

The project reconstructs the history of the publication from 1921 to today. During the Fall semester, students had the unique opportunity to explore all 897 issues, browsing through thousands of images and articles. Focusing on issues of labour, gender, national identities, race, aesthetic subversion, and class, the research aims to rethink the contribution of L’Officiel and rediscover forgotten histories of the fashion industry.

The research highlights the importance of the magazine in documenting the shift from haute couture to ready-to-wear, the various industrial chains that make up the fashion system but also the creation of imaginaries of fashion, femininities and Frenchness – nationally and abroad. 

As part of this collaboration, two MA students, Piper McDonald and Jingxin Wang, present the results of her MA thesis that documents the relationship between the fine art and fashion systems and the transformation from printed to digital media in L’Officiel China.

In addition, a publication created in order to display and summarize all the thesis projects of this year’s Graduating Students will be showcased in an area of the American Center.

The exhibition will be a great opportunity for our students to present the result of their research to members from the fashion museums and fashion publications field. In fact, they will have the chance to present their final work to a jury of various players from the industry.

Stay tuned on our social media for more information about the exhibition!

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