For German Spook I wrote an opinionated view on the current exhibition Modemethode in Bonn. I translated it in English for those of you interested. The pics you see here are from my personal Instagram, head over to Spook for more photographs, search for #Modemethode on Instagram or click on the links provided . German museums are very strict with images so this is the way to go.
As a controversial figure Karl Lagerfeld raises opinions as contrasting as his favorite colors black and white. Sometimes I even get the feeling the win is for his opponents, going strong against him with calls to retire.
But why should Karl Lagerfeld leave the fashion stage? Looking at the recently opened exhibition Karl Lagerfeld – Modemethode at Bonn Bundeskunsthalle here in Germany proof is that he’s still at heights.
The exhibition Modemethode focuses on Karl Lagerfelds work not on himself. All praise is left for the exhibition catalog, a Vogue special, singly released for this show. Finally a Vogue where you don’t have to fight through 200 pages of ads until you reach the first content!
Karl Lagerfeld sent his best people to make this exhibition work while not partaking himself as he is known to refrain from too much self obsession.
A look on Karl Lagerfelds central workstation at the beginning
The exhibition houses three main parts. At first the visitor enters through a lofty room with only one exhibit. This is Karl Lagerfelds main workstation, his personal desk, lent for Modemethode and completely covered with drawing paraphernalia and books. Most of the books are illustrated art volumes. A little hint that even a forward designer like Karl Lagerfeld who never looses himself in sentimental nostalgia, still seeks to understand the creative past of mankind. The human mind sublimes ideas from what he sees and everything is a further enhancement of existing shapes.
„I like fashion to be part of daily life“
From that revelation the visitor will be led onto the next. Located right before the central exhibition part is a darkened space with one enlightening message floating bright above the visitors head. A democratic credo from Karl Lagerfeld pro fashion. His vision for it as part of daily life which actually everybody should take to heart. Being prepared like this the visitor can now proceed and take a look at Karl Lagerfelds sketches and out coming creations.
What follows is not a documentation of Karl Lagerfeld’s complete works. For that all the space and money of Bundeskunsthalle would have not been enough, but a well selection of his most significant works in fashion. Karl Lagerfeld’s name is mostly connected with Chanel, Fendi, Chloé and of course his own line Karl Lagerfeld. Still the very first garment to be seen is the yellow coatdress which won him a price at the International Wool Secretariat now more than over 60 years ago and started his career being hired by Balmain immediately afterwards.
Curator and muse of Karl Lagerfeld, Amanda Harlech, limited the exhibition on High Fashion thus excluding collaborations with the likes of H&M, milestone in fashion history and maybe standing strongest for the fashion democrat Karl Lagerfeld. Why then, I ask myself, that down to earth quote beforehand?
In Modemethode garments, accessories, illustrations and ad campaign bits get exhibited
The allover conceptual design is held low-key while still saving a refined playfulness. Every element of presentation, be it small or covering whole walls, does not merely serve decorative means but is also fitted with iconographic virtues like the paper fans draped around the mannequins at Chloé, a nod to Karl Lagerfelds phase where he was never seen without one. Everything is backed up by fine sounds of instrumental music, put together by Michel Gaubert, responsible for sound design on runways at Chanel, Fendi, Chloé and Dior.
One by one the brands are introduced to the visitor. There is no chronological order just thematic which I like. Each brand accompanied by its associated image campaign though the posters get a little swallowed by the brutalist style printed wall papers.
Antiminimalism at Fendi
The selection at Fendi, I recall mostly from the 90s and early 00s, comes a little random across. Some dresses are really pretty like a completely pleated, black, Edwardian style evening dress or an opalescent space mini partly made of plastic. Then there are others which definitely didn’t stand time. The fabrics seem heavy and bulky though it’s always stated that Fendi then had a renaissance by becoming lighter, having an elaborate interior and getting Karl as a renovator. Well minimalism is big again and I am deeply imprinted with Helmut Lang and Raf Simons chic, representatives of a style whom Fendi opposed in the 90s with Italian opulence… so my spoiled eye couldn’t detect either lightness and nor a golden thread.
In the Vogue Special interview Lady Harlech says that she curated the selection after her own aesthetic preferences, proof that she is highly able comes right at the following brands. At Chloé creations of exceptional romantic beauty and elegance catch the eye.
The French are beyond competition in their art of Couture and archival storage
The exhibition Modemethode is not only a view on Karl Lagerfelds designs but also documents the capabilities of couture craftsmanship. At Chloé the flowy 70’s dresses are so unbelievably delicate and airy as if they just came out of a dressmakers atelier. Same on the later Art Deco inspired black dresses each of them would absolutely wearable today.
Not much insight is given to the actual design process as the exhibition works this out on a more suggestive mode. It wants you to explore for yourself by giving the opportunity to step close to the pieces and even to look inside them. Personally I would have liked to see also some original illustrations of Karl Lagerfeld and not only copies.
Walls of bags and shoes
In todays standards accessories mark an important part of a brands DNA. Workhorses in a brands income value and often containing brand building iconography, they’re displayed here on the walls of Modemethode. The famous Fendi-Baguette, may this one not make a comeback, no matter how hard the brand tries, is showcased a few times though actually invented by Silvia Fendi and not Karl Lagerfeld. I got more happy at the more sophisticated playfulness at Chanel. Here they were, the Lego Clutch, the shopping basket and easily overlooked in the higher ranks the mean gun heels. Also don’t forget to take a look at the buttons in the Chanel section, they’re so intricate and fun.
From prêt-à-porter to the Paper World haute couture
In the last section waits a true treat of gown making for the visitor. Hidden behind a wall of illustrated notebooks he steps from the grey street world into a white luminated space full of Chanels most legendary haute couture. Best showpieces have been put together here and become presented underneath a filigree vaulted roof made of paper cuts. It’s pillars symbolically growing out of stacks of fine sketching paper provided by the manufacturer Gmund.
Absolute highlights in this area are definitely a full on feathery wedding dress worn by Lindsey Wixson on the A/W 2012 runway show and another wedding dress for last years autumn collection entirely made of neoprene!!! It has a truly fabulous cut, a regal, gold-embroidered train and could be made for a byzantine empress. If the former queen of Iran Farah Diba had the opportunity to have a look on it, I bet she regretted once more having lost her status and rank.
Modemethode – despite its technical term by the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn is actually more an arty conceptualization and can dearly compete with the big fashion exhibitors of New York’s MET Costume Institute or London’s Victoria & Albert.
// Open till September 13. 2015 // Chanel bridal images from jolie Germany.
As I said this article expresses my personal view. Feel free to disagree and comment about it.