Folk Couture

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I know what you’re thinking – fashion and folk art? Who would’ve thought that could be fashionable? Although they’re seemingly unrelated, the American Folk Art Museum is taking an innovative approach with their “Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art” exhibition.

Running from January 21st to April 23rd, the exhibit features a collaboration between the museum’s pieces of folk art and thirteen established and emerging fashion designers. The thirteen designers include: Chadwick Bell, Fabio Costa, Gary Graham, Catherine Malandrino, threeASFOUR, Creatures of the Wind, Bibhu Mohapatra, John Bartlett, Ronaldus Shamask, Michael Bastian, Yeohlee Teng, Koos van der Akker, and Jean Yu.

The designers were shown a selection of 100 pieces of artwork from the museum’s collections. Each designer chose one object as their inspiration and created a tailored adaption. As the sole purpose was to portray “fashion as art”, the pieces were not required to be wearable. This gave the designers more leeway in creating their masterpieces and allowed for more creativity.

threeASFOUR's dress inspired by the "Friendship Star Quilt"

threeASFOUR’s dress inspired by the “Friendship Star Quilt”

One of my personal favorites is threeASFOUR’s dress inspired by a “Friendship Star Quilt” made by a Quaker woman from Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Although the quilt has the Star of David, it was not meant to symbolize Judaism. It was created as a symbol of friendship. threeASFOUR took the pattern and incorporated three religious symbols into their dress. It is made from three layers of laser-cut flower-print patent leather over white Spandex power mesh and each layer is pierced with the Jewish, Islamic, or Christian star. A new pattern was generated out of the different points of each star.

"The Friendship Star Quilt"

“Friendship Star Quilt”

To me, this is one of the most interesting takes on the merging of fashion and art. It’s typical to see pop, contemporary and classical art incorporated into fashion but this is a refreshing perspective. The exhibit is definitely on my agenda when I go to NYC in April. You can preview the work by the rest of the designers on the Folk Couture website.

By: Julianne Bagley

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