Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme

Exhibition, The Museum at FIT, New York, US.

From September 15, 2017 until January 6, 2018
Examined here is high fashion inspired by clothing made for survival in the most inhospitable environments on earth and beyond. Today’s luxurious parkas trace their roots to the ‘heroic era’ of polar navigation, while down-filled ‘puffer’ coats and backpacks were originally perfected for extreme mountain climbing in the mid20th century. Experimental, high tech materials made for exploration to otherworldly realms — such as neoprene (deep sea) and Mylar (outer space) — made their way onto the runway. On view is a historical fur garment created in Siberia as well as adaptations of indigenous Arctic clothing by pioneering explorer Matthew Henson. Also included are the earliest down-filled jackets and other technologically experimental objects engineered for polar and mountain exploration.
Four major types of clothing will constitute the majority of the exhibition: indigenous clothing such as anoraks worn by the Inuit that were later appropriated by the first Western European explorers; tailored menswear clothes made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in cities such as London and commissioned by the first European explorers; an array of garments displaying novel technologies, mainly the newest high technology materials; and last, a wide range of high fashions inspired by these endeavors.
Examples of Arctic-inspired, fashionable clothing that pre-date the 1960s are rare. During that decade, couturiers such as Madame Grès began to design après ski wear that resembled garments designed for Western explorers and appropriated from clothing invented by the Inuit. Also, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar sent models and photographers to the Arctic to capture otherworldly images set among the icebergs. During the 1990s and early 2000s, indigenous garments from remote, icy environments increasingly inspired leading designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Isaac Mizrahi, and Yohji Yamamoto. More recently, Joseph Altuzarra’s parkas and Karl Lagerfeld’s faux fur creations for Chanel have become coveted high-fashion items.
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme is also the title of the exhibition’s companion book, published by Thames & Hudson. This is the first collaboration between this illustrious publishing house and The Museum at FIT. Lavishly illustrated, the book features approximately 150 color photographs of objects from MFIT’s permanent collection, as well as others chosen from runway shows and leading fashion magazines, and unpublished photographs of early expeditions from the archives of institutions such as the Explorer’s Club in New York.