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The fashion industry is in a time of interregnum.  Old systems and structures of production, dissemination, and communication are no longer functioning. New alternatives have yet to be invented.  Fashion is a medium for material representation of social and cultural currents; it is hardly surprising that fashion and larger global trends synergized in their flux.


Among the principal manifestations of this flux is the shifting in our information consumption patterns.  Perception, experience, and intake of fashion speed up in the age of digitization.  The industry continues to respond by accelerating the rhythms of presentation, production, and communication. 

We live in a time when the context is fashion is now incredibly democratized, and ideas are disseminated quicker and to a broader range of audiences than ever before in human history.  to "We live in a time when the context of fashion is incredibly democratized, and ideas are disseminated quicker and to a broader range of audiences than ever before in human history

Technological growth and the age of capacity are the story of the 21st century.  However, like in any technological boom, facets of the previous era are expensed.  In the digital age, quantity has at times trumped quality; sheer volume has in some cases overtaken limited brilliance, squeezing out creativity.


Some have chosen to reject technology in a response to the digital age’s deficiencies in collective artistic interrogation.  Increasingly, there are iconoclasts in the industry who eschew this new pace and instead return to the methods and structure of an antiquated era; they take a slow, fastidious, and careful approach to fashion.


Some of the most notable singular visionaries of the late 20th century and early 21st century, Rick Owens, Martin Margiela, and Rei Kawakubo, turned to the antithesis of the digital age to host retrospectives that force authentic inquiry into their work. They turned to the museum. 

Lost in the new digital structure in fashion are deeper insights, close analysis, and historical contextualization.  The museum, which necessitates working with the power and potential of physicality, and of time and space, forces a deeper examination of what is often cast aside in contemporary presentation. 


The space and physical presentation of these collections produce an effect equal or greater than the actual garments; the garments and their presentation interact to create an experience that is greater the sum of its' parts.   The physical experience is an integral step in presenting something that becomes a lasting memory to someone, relying on the viewer to use their sensory faculties to a much greater degree than when engaging with an electronic screen.


A naturally occurring, physical experience has yet to be replicated by the digital. Rick Owens showed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles from December of 2016 to April of 2017, focusing on his furniture design.  Largely unheralded in comparison to his massive eponymous clothing brand, Owens began producing furniture in 2007.

Borrowing sensibilities from his clothing line, his work questions preconceptions and existing constructions of 'beauty.'  Owen's garments often possess an architectural, sculptural bent to them; he draws inspiration from similar sources in art history when he creates furniture.  Among his breadth of inspirations for this collection at MOCA are modernist design, brutalist architecture, monochrome painting, minimal art, and avant-garde dance. 


Owens works with alabaster, bronze, ox bone, leather, concrete, and plywood, and the exhibition marks Owen's inaugural use of foam and rock crystal; his references and materials are both as esoteric and eclectic as one would expect from the mind of Owens.


Within the space of Owen's exhibit, the works of late contemporary artist Steven Parrino - brutalized, deconstructionist, torn paintings - sit next to Owen's furniture.  Both artists embody a spirit of punk, a rebellion against the status quo in their respective realms of artistic production. Clear, shared sensibilities exist between the two artists.  The synchronization and alignment of the two artists, spiritually and conceptually, is made possible by the curation of the museum.  To feel the full extent of their energy in tandem, to get a grip on the gestalt, one has to experience the exhibit through their full sensory faculties.


By pairing his work with Steven Parrino’s, Owens creates a specific context through which his work is experienced.  In the next instalment of our forthcoming series, we will ruminate on how Kawakubo, McQueen, and Margiela invoke the power of context in their respective exhibits. 

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