“Utopian Bodies”- Fashion Looks Forward exhibition at Liljevalchs Gallery

ris Van Herpen AW13 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
ris Van Herpen AW13
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

With the point of departure in Swedish clothing traditions and international impulses and based on eleven themes, we present a utopian world focused on innovative thinking and imaginative fashion. With specially commissioned garments by Swedish fashion designers and international creations, the exhibition will be a visual feast.

Liljevalchs´ new extraordinary exhibition “Utopian Bodies: Fashion Looks Forward” maps out imaginable futures for the adorned body and focuses on the positive aspects of fashion, rather than expatiate on the problems. How can fashion be harnessed to create a better future? How does fashion relate to the human body, to us as individuals and groups, and the world around us?

Presenting fashion’s possibilities and highlighting human creativity, the exhibition aims to inspire visitors to search for their good place, their vision of the future.

Arranged over eleven galleries – Sustainability, Change, Technology, Craft & form, Craft & colour, Resistance & society, Resistance & beauty, Solidarity, Memory, Gender identity and Love – the exhibition presents a snapshot of what is possible today and where we can be in the future.

The exhibition, which consists of over 200 objects, images and videos, invites visitors to embark on a captivating journey between different worlds. The individually designed galleries are inspired by various utopian ideas – some realised and others not. But above all, they highlight the social promise of technology and creativity.

Some of the highlights include a Dior couture ensemble with a detailed floral pattern from the spring/summer collection 2013, representing the new direction of the legendary house under Raf Simons’ creative leadership; Viktor & Rolf’s look from Van Gogh Girl couture spring/summer 2015 collection, as well as their iconic “Hana Bedtime Story” ensemble from 2005; Hussein Chalayan’s ground-breaking table skirt (Afterwords 2000) and moulded plastic dress (Inertia 2009); Walter Van Beirendonck’s Stop Racism headdress from Crossed Crocodiles autumn/winter 2014; Issey Miyake’s innovative King & Queen installation from the spring/summer 1999 A-POC collection which was already then made with zero-waste; and Jólan Van Der Wiel’s and Iris Van Herpen’s magnetic and 3D-printed shoes.

H&M for the room Sustainability. Beauty beyond trash 2015. Photo: Mattias Lindbäck
H&M for the room Sustainability. Beauty beyond trash 2015. Photo: Mattias Lindbäck

This show also includes several garments from one of the world’s largest private collections of Alexander McQueen, Prada’s sparkling rainbow look from spring/summer 2014 and a look from Rick Owen’s autumn/winter 2015 collection that caused a media stir due to the strategically cut holes revealing the models’ genitals. A number of films directed by, for example, Geoffrey Lillemon, Nick Knight/SHOWstudio and Lucy McRae will be screened throughout the galleries. Stephen Jones Millinery’s almost surreal hats, and Maiko Takeda’s headwear – seen on the artwork of Björk’s latest album – will be on display. Visitors will also encounter objects by a host of international designers, such as KENZO, Gucci, Acne, Bless, Dries Van Noten, Bernhard Willhelm, Naomi Filmer, Sonia Rykiel, Chloe, Elsa Schiaparelli, Massaro, as well as Versace, Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons for H&M.

The next generation of avant-garde fashion designers from around the world are also represented in this exhibition. For example, Ryohei Kawanishi’s collection that address the nuclear disaster of Fukushima, Anrealage garments that questions perception through creating optical illusions, H&M prize winner Minju Kim’s voluminous garments; Vogue Fashion Fund nominees Gypsy Sport and Chromat, designers such as Claire Barrow, Craig Green and Grace Wales Bonner that translate resistance into fashion.

Swedish court jewellers W.A. Bolin, Saville Row tailors Gieves & Hawkes, and Parisian shoemakers Masaro represent traditional craftsmanship, and representatives for the firms are interviewed in the catalogue about their ideas on making and the future of made-to-measure and one-offs.

16 Swedish designers have been specially commissioned to create unique garments for the exhibition: Ann-Sofie Back (for the room Resistance & society), Anna-Sara Dåvik (Memory), Bea Szenfeld (Resistance & beauty), CMMN SWDN (Gender), Diana Orving (Solidarity), Gudrun Sjödén (Craft & colour) H&M (Sustainability and Love), Ida Klamborn (Sustainability), Ida Sjöstedt (Gender), Lamija Suljevic (Change), Maja Gunn (Gender), New Black (Resistance & society), Patrik Söderstam (Resistance & beauty), Sandra Backlund (Craft & form), This Is Sweden (Resistance & society) and Ulrika Elovsson (Change).

Another highlight of the exhibition is the Memory room. Here fashion is shown as a material memory – showing how clothes can make us recall the past, and almost take on magical properties, such as a lucky shirt. We have asked people from all walks of life to exhibit a garment that tells a personal story. Participants include: Hamish Bowles, editor of Vogue; Susanne Ljung, journalist; Roy Andersson, director; Diane Pernet, fashion icon; Twiggy, model; Lykke Li, singer; Sven Wollter, actor; Conchita Wurst, winner of Eurovision Song Contest, and Christian Lacroix, designer.

The show also shows some of the latest wearable technologies and how fashion is dealing with the global climate crisis.

• byBorres BBsuit 0.2 cleans polluted air through a portable filtering system. And Pauline Van Dongen’s panel solar panel shirt store natural energy.

• Recycling and utilisation of new raw materials is something that concerns many designers today. Smart Textiles has created the first completely recyclable cotton fabric, which can minimise the environmental impact on cotton growing. Miguel Mesa Posadas’s clothes are made of recycled car tires, whereas Qmilks make clothes out of biologically degradable milk fibres.

• Valerie Lamontagnes’ clothes change their properties according to weather, pointing towards a future with less over specified garments, which would use fewer natural resources.

• Ying Gao makes clothes that interact with onlookers gaze or voice.

• Satsuki Ohata’s “fondue-slippers” can be tailor-made at home through dipping your feet in a solution.

• Billie Whitehouse’s and Ben Moir’s Navigate jacket have vibrating mechanism embedded in the shoulders, allowing wearers to find the way without looking at a map.

• With Cutecircuit’s shirts you can send hugs to other wearers of their garments.

• Beanotherlab’s latest technology allows for users to experience the body of someone else.

Accompanying the exhibition, an extensive dual language exhibition catalogue (Swedish and English) will be published, featuring both journalistic and academic accounts relating to the exhibition’s main themes from different perspectives. Edited by Johan Deurell and Hanne Eide, the catalogue contains chapters by writers such as: professor Elizabeth Wilson, professor Christopher Breward, Susanne Madsen, editor Dazed & Confused, Dr. Shaun Cole, London College of Fashion, and Madelaine Levy, editor-at-large of Bon Magazine.

There is an extensive focus on children activities as the exhibition also aims to include and inspire children. A special catalogue for children will be published, unlocking the themes of the exhibition in a pedagogic and fun way, with illustrations by Pernilla Stalfelt, Jojo Falk and Cajsa Wessberg. Children’s author Anna-Klara Mehlich has written the catalogue, and also devised a child zone together with students from the Stockholm art school, Konstfack. Here there will be a range of holiday and weekend activities such as a treasure hunt, sewing, drawing and sculpture tasks, mini exhibition of children’s work, and classes by Patrik Söderstam and Maja Gunn.

The exhibition is supported by AMF Fastigheter, ASFB, H&M, Gudrun Sjödén, Pro Suecia Foundation and Patriksson Communication.

Anrealage, ensemble, WIDESHORTSLIMLONG, autumn/winter 2010.


Viktor & Rolf, ensemble, Hana Bedtime story autumn/winter 2005. Photo: Team Peter Stigter

25 september 2015 – 7 februari 2016

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