Through February 21, the Museum at FIT is showing an exhibition of goth (and related) fashions entitled, simply and appropriately, “Gothic“. I checked it out this past Thursday. Not the same as the Goth exhibit I saw at the Yokohama Museum, which was awesome, and including both a lot more Japanese fashion and a lot more non-fashion artworks, “Gothic” claims to be the first exhibition in the world to focus chiefly on the fashion side of the goth subculture and aesthetic.
I don’t know enough about the fashion world, and certainly not about the history of museum fashion exhibitions, to say what’s typical, but I have a sense that this is a particularly special event; that the mainstream fashion world tends (basically by definition) to focus exclusively on mainstream fashions, and to ignore or look down upon subculture fashions. So for FIT to do this is really incredible. They are even hosting a “Subculture and Style Symposium” on February 14th, consisting of talks by scholars of fashion and culture on a variety of punk, goth, and subculture-related topics. I would love to go; it actually includes a number of talks on Japanese street culture, Japanese goth culture and fashion. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive to participate.
I am not myself a goth, but I have grown to appreciate the aesthetic, the idea behind it, and find these types of exhibits inspiring, evocative, and enthrallingly beautiful. I realized too late (after high school, perhaps even after college) that the punks and goths were not in fact the creepy and scary kids who I should stay away from, but in fact geeks like myself who, unlike the stereotypical cool kids – the jocks, cheerleaders, etc – had a different view of the world, and an interest in the wider, grander, deeper world around us all. While the cool kids focused on local parties, hangouts, all in all nothing much beyond the borders of our small suburban town, the punks and goths were deep in literature, poetry, roleplaying games, fashion, the arts… and were thinking about the world around us, our role within it, and the myriad perspectives one might have on it. Since this realization, I have become fascinated by subcultures such as these, and feel like I want to identify with them, despite technically remaining an outsider.
The Gothic exhibit at the Museum at FIT was superbly done, from an exhibition design point of view. Step into the basement of the museum, and you are plunged into darkness; the gallery is meant to represent a “labyrinth”, and it sets the mood wonderfully. This isn’t about analysing gothic fashion in a distant clinical fashion, but about creating an experience for the visitor that helps them to understand and appreciate the goth aesthetic.
The objects on display were a mix of fashions from the world of street culture (i.e. real life goths of New York clubs and Harajuku cafés) and those from the runway. I was pleasantly surprised to see such intriguing and genuinely goth, genuinely subculture, pieces by big-name runway designers. And I learned the names of a number of designers who I hope to see more of, learn more about, in the future.
A big-name English runway fashion designer who sometimes displays strong goth influences.
A Japanese goth-punk designer.
Toronto-based cybergoth-punk boutique. How they became so visible and popular that they’re even included in this relatively small survey of goth fashions is a mystery to me; more of a mystery is why I have seen this particular model (who, I gather, is one of the chief designers at Plastik Wrap as well?) time and time again in a variety of media.
Jean Paul Gaultier
I was surprised to see so many interesting and very genuinely goth pieces from such a mainstream name as Gaultier. Not only that, but a good number of clothes for men, and things that look quite genuinely wearable – very goth, but still something you could wear on the street and stand out but not feel too absurd.
This is just a taste of the fashions on display right now at the Museum at FIT, based on what images I could find quickly & easily… I definitely recommend the exhibit, and am inspired to look into goth fashion further. Maybe I’ll pick up some Goth & Lolita photobooks from Kinokuniya.