The URI Textile Program exhibit of 20th century designers asks “What’s in a name?” – New URIs
KINGSTON, RI – April 28, 2022 – Shoppers in the 1850s had the same attraction to new designer brands that were beginning to appear on clothing that shoppers today might have when browsing the shelves of TJ Maxx or of a high-end boutique.
“It’s the same reason we look for tags in our clothing today,” said Susan Jerome, URI’s Historical Textiles and Costume Collection Manager. “You want to tell people that you are a certain type of person.”
The history of designer fashion is explored in a new exhibition at the Quinn Hall Textile Gallery that asks the question, “What’s in a [Designer’s] Name? A survey of 20th century fashion labels.
Review of work of 20and designers of the century from URI’s extensive collection of textiles, the exhibition traces the history of haute couture over the past century, focusing on the birth of the eponymous label and the transition of individual designers and fashion houses. couture to brands that still thrive today.
Walking through the exhibition feels like window shopping in front of chic boutiques. The exhibit, which was researched, curated and installed by graduate students from URI’s Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design program, features around 30 garments from renowned designers such as Mariano Fortuny, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche, Perry Ellis, Issey Miyake and Frankie Welch.
English fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895), whose photo greets visitors to the exhibition, is considered one of the first French couturiers in the mid-1800s to include brand labels in clothing for women. As designers and fashion houses transformed into brands during the 20and century, many designer labels have remained a status symbol, even if their guarantee of high-quality workmanship is now sporadic, Jerome said.
“Many of the designers in this exhibit have worked to make high-end products,” said Paige Bailey, of paw paw, michigan, a second-year master’s student in the historical conservation of textiles. “Their labels ensure the high quality of the item a consumer is buying as well as a way for consumers to display their authentic purchase.”
While fashion designer shows aren’t uncommon, said Alyssa Opishinski, of East of Greenwich, Rhode Island, the Quinn Hall exhibit specifically explores the history of branding, giving the show a broader appeal. Students at URI’s College of Business, which houses the textiles program, should find the topics interesting, she said, particularly how long trademark and licensing concepts have been around and how much originated from the industry. fashion industry.
“I also hope that students studying business or fashion design can find inspiration,” she said. “For example, Perry Ellis’ pieces showcase her innovations in more sustainable fashion and Frankie Welch is an amazing example of female entrepreneurship during second wave feminism.”
Bailey and Opishinski were among 10 graduate students who researched, curated and staged the exhibition.
Jerome and Professor Linda Welters sifted through URI’s historic textile and costume collection of over 25,000 items and pulled out items tagged by designers, and students of Welters’ graduate course in 20and Designers of the century conducted extensive research on objects. Analyzes of student clothing included research into designers, donors, materials used in clothing, and quality of design and construction.
“It was especially important to me because writing apparel reports is something I’m going to do in my desired career,” Bailey said. “Without this research, we might not have uncovered the history of certain designer clothes and brands.”
In Instructor Rebecca Kelly’s graduate course on Exhibiting and Storing Historic Textiles, students selected garments for the show from detailed research, and did the hands-on work of assembling and decorating. display of clothes, and writing text for displays. When organizing the exhibit, the students considered the historical relevance and beauty of each item of clothing, while making sure to include clothing from across the century.
“What was more difficult than narrowing down our final list was deciding the order in which the items would be presented,” Opishinski said. “We ended up with a chronological order. I wish I could have shown more designer accessories, but just getting the models and frames ready took a huge amount of time and resources.
Among Opishinksi’s favorites on the show is a cream-colored women’s suit by Guy Laroche from the late 1950s to early 1960s, which was donated to the URI collection by a former economics dean. maid, Beverly Cusack. “Her story shows how high fashion designers had to shift to mainstream ready-to-wear to stay relevant,” she said.
For Bailey, her picks are a sequined sheath dress by Tom and Linda Platt from 1989 and a purple peasant coat by Yves Saint Laurent from 1977, part of the designer’s best-selling Russian collection.
“It was also the dawn of her ready-to-wear career, so you can thank the coat for being the trigger for some of the YSL products you can find in stores today,” said Bailey. “The Platt dress has a very sweet story behind it, where the designers fell in love while studying at the same school and have been creating fashion together ever since. It’s stories like this that add depth and wealth to a designer’s career and, therefore, to their brand.
Jerome’s favorites are a late 1920s butter-yellow silk velvet Hattie Carnegie dress and two 1950s Christian Dior silk organza blouses, one off-white and the other navy. Jerome appreciates them with an eye of sewer.
“The Hattie Carnegie is a very simple dress but the construction is not as simple as you think when you look at it,” she said, “and the construction of the blouses is also very interesting. the time when Christian Dior was still working and the construction is very imaginative.
The exhibition runs through December at the Quinn Hall Textile Gallery, located on the first floor of Quinn Hall, 55 Lower College Road, Kingston. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free entry.