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A ripping exhibition on fashion March 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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Paper dress display at the Benaki shows 60s classics, new creations

There’s Robert Kennedy, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, but also the stars of Universal Studios, Campbell Soup and bright prints. If fashion is a reflection of the kind of world we live in, the 1960s craze for disposable paper dresses captured history in the making.

No fewer than 100 original, 1960s paper dresses welcome visitors to the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Annex, where «RRRIPP!! Paper Fashion» is on display until April 7. This is where fashion, art, history, design and architecture join forces in a three-tiered show.

Behind the exciting display lies a great team: Atopos, an Athens-based culture think tank and owner of the world’s leading paper dress collection. A non-profit organization presided over by Stamos J. Fafalios and counting on the endless energy of its artistic director Vassilis Zidianakis, who also curated the current exhibition, Atopos is turning into a major player in cultural affairs, both on a local and international level.

For the Atopos team, research on fabric innovation, technology and apparel manufacturing led to a specific interest in the use of paper, whether woven or non-woven. At the same time, the group was already building a collection of paper dresses straight from the 1960s, the organization today owns about 300 original pieces. As their paper dress collection grew, the team’s appetite for more led them to travel the extra research mile and look into how paper was used in garment making in the past, its intriguing use in today’s fashion and just how it might look in the future.

It all comes together at the Athens Museum, where a pile of newspapers lies next to a John Galliano gown featuring printed-fabric press cuttings, while a page from an open book points to the designer’s inspiration, a creation by Elsa Schiaparelli.

Juxtaposing the raw with the refined, the old and the new, the exhibition showcases more than 200 items stemming from various international institutions, including the Miyake Issey Foundation in Tokyo, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, Antwerp’s Fashion Museum and the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation in Nafplion.

Making a special appearance at the Benaki is Andy Warhol’s Fragile dress, originally conceived as a promotion for the Mars Manufacturing Company and eventually worn by the Velvet Underground’s Nico. Also on display is Christian Dior’s quintessential definition of the New Look, the Bar Suit, recreated on paper by Isabelle de Borchgrave, conceptual Turkish-Cypriot designer Hussein Chalayan’s Airmail dress, as well as a late 18th century Japanese Kamiko coat and paper vests worn by French and Belgian POWs during World War II.

Special commissions also play an integral part. Theater man, and Vassilis Zidianakis’s mentor, Bob Wilson, fashion designers Rick Owens, Sophia Kokosalaki, as well as local designers and artists, among them Deux Hommes, Yiorgos Eleftheriades, Angelos Bratis and MI-RO, were asked by Atopos to produce works for the show, to add a creative twist, some were asked to rework original pieces.

What is intriguing at the Museum is not only what you see, but how you see it being showcased. Marking a fresh approach to scenography, the show’s mise-en-scene was conceived by Paris-based Normal Studio. Jean-Francois Dingjian and Eloi Chafai were invited by Zidianakis to come to Athens and find novel ways to display, store and conserve the exhibits.

For the French design duo, known for their work in industrial design as well as Museum shows such as «L’Homme pare» at the Musee de la Mode et du Textile in Paris in 2005, the project became fertile ground for breaking some rigid rules for museums.

In the end, they came up with an open-space atmosphere, an interactive area promoting free movement, as if it were Atopos’s own workshop, where exhibits go on display on rotation. Meanwhile, Greek architect Grigoris Kotsiyiannis has designed two labyrinths leading to two commissioned works by video artist Marcus Tomlinson.

The journey ends at the Museum’s store, where visitors can browse through a large selection of accessories made of paper, ranging from lamps to jewelry as well as the exhibition’s free-spirited catalog.

Following its debut staging in Greece, «RRRIPP!! Paper Fashion» will travel to London’s Hellenic Center during London Fashion Week in September, while possible destinations also include Luxembourg’s Museum of Modern Art and the Olympic city of Beijing next year.

At the Benaki Museum Pireos Annex, 138 Pireos Street, Athens, tel 210 3453111.

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