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MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp

This blog features posts from the various departments at the MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp who share their insights on the Museum's working, exhibitions and projects. MoMu is located in the centre of the Antwerp fashion district. Every year, the museum organises two thematic exhibitions, along with workshops, guided tours,...
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10 Years MoMu!

Tomorrow, MoMu celebrates its 10th anniversary!! That day, visitors will be treated with free entrance to the exhibition Madame Grès. Sculptural Fashion.

As a city of fashion at the beginning of the new millennium, Antwerp was able to look back on two incredible decades, set in motion by the success of The Antwerp Six and kept alive by successive generations of designers who made international names for themselves, as well as by a growing professionalization and internationalization of the fashion department of the Antwerp Academy. MoMu was the Province of Antwerp’s answer to the growing demand for a permanent and public presence of fashion in the city and for the creation of a national centre of expertise. MoMu was conceived as a ‘home’ for fashion, a place where our designers could be studied, catalogued and made accessible to a broad public.

Kaat Debo, director MoMu: ‘I am extremely proud that in these ten years, we have grown to become an international-ly respected player in the field of fashion museums. This translates into an increasing worldwide interest from the media and in attractive numbers of visi- tors, both to our activities in Antwerp itself and to the exhibitions for which we have travelled to Tokyo, London, Munich and Istanbul. The fact that we are so highly valued by designers and fashion houses in Belgium and elsewhere can, I believe, be concluded from the enthusi- astic reactions we receive to the requests for loans and the continu- ally increasing donations to our collection.’

Peter Bellens, Deputy of Culture – Province of Antwerp: ‘This year, the Fashion Museum (MoMu) celebrates its 10th birthday, and in this short time, it has grown into a prized asset of the Antwerp Modenatie complex. MoMu is led by a dynamic team that even today continues to successfully build the museum as a professional institute with international allure.
The foundation of this success undoubtedly rests with MoMu’s tempo- rary exhibitions. They help create a framework in which strengths can be optimally brought together, where the museum works intensively with the fashion sector, with Belgian designers as well as renowned international fashion houses. The fact that this approach is a success is evident in the interest in MoMu on the part of the media, as well
as – and especially – the nearly 90,000 visitors who found their way to the museum in 2011. This makes MoMu one of the most successful museums in Antwerp. In our role in governing the Province of Antwerp, we have given this museum the opportunity to grow. From the begin- ning, we have invested in the potential of this museum and its staff.’

Renato Nicolodi

Conceptually, the design of the exhibition at MoMu is consistent with the sculptural fashion of Madame Grès. The original exhibition by Musée Galliera took place in the beautiful spaces of the Musée Bourdelle, housing the former studios of the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Her silhouettes were on display amongst the monumental Bourdelle sculptures.

In Antwerp, it was not possible to recreate the unique character of the Musée Bourdelle, with its imposing works and intimate studios, but we did decide to preserve the link with sculpture in our exhibition design. MoMu invited the Belgian sculptor Renato Nicolodi to work with scenographer Bob Verhelst to develop the setting for the exhibition, against a backdrop of sand colour (“grès” is French for sandstone).

Nicolodi was trained as a painter and only later shifted to sculpture. In his monumental con- crete sculptures, he continues to make use of the contrasts employed in painting: light and dark, open and closed, etc. Nicolodi’s work refers to the kind of archetypal architecture that is ingrained in our collective memory. He is fascinated by such man-made structures as the Pyramids, bunkers, or disused urban architecture, from Antiquity for example, which have lost their original function to become sculpture instead.

For the Fashion Museum, Nicolodi designed a series of separate elements, scale models with austere rows of columns and staircases that seem part of some greater whole. They could be left over from a larger structure, in the same way that the ruins of the Forum in Rome still convey the suggestion of a great past.

Works made to scale and numerous stairs are characteristic of Renato Nicolodi’s work. As he explains, “When I first made use of (stairs) in my work, they had the form of incrementally advancing entrances. You could refer to the result as a vertically arranged flight of steps. That gradual change from large to small also brought an increasing shift from light to dark, because each smaller portal was partly in the shadow of a larger one, with darkness as its final endpoint. It is a question of gradations, and they can be understood both literally and figuratively.”

“Figuratively, the gradual factor in my sculptures symbolically stands for the mental journey that I hope the viewer will take as he experiences my work. Steps take us from level to level, and climbing them stands for the different stages or steps that you go through when expe- riencing a mental journey. It is the same in Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is based on a fictional journey through the hereafter.”

“The black holes experienced in seeing a flat surface in my work can also be seen as a reflection of water in a well, or like projection screens on which the viewer can project his or her thoughts or stories.”

Interview: Karen van Godtsenhoven
Camera: Emanuel Parent
Montage: Guido Verelst – Deep Focus

Madame Grès. Sculptural Fashion

From September 12th, 2012 till February 10th, 2013 MoMu presents MADAME GRÈS. Sculptural Fashion, an overview of the work of the Parisian couturier, Madame Grès (1903– 1993).

Madame Grès felt herself as much a sculptor as a fashion designer: ‘I wanted to become a sculptor. For me, working with stone or fabrics is the same thing.’
She draped or pleated the fabric directly onto the model, without artificial devices and mostly without using scissors and needles, so that she also came to be known as the pioneer of seamless garments. In the fifty years of her career, her work went through a range of stylistic periods, from Hellenistic, draped evening dresses to modern, minimalist daytime garments and stylish beachwear, always in her own specific style: sober, timeless, sculptural and utterly feminine.

Conceptually, the design of the exhibition at the Fashion Museum will be consistent with the sculptural fashion of Madame Grès. To achieve this, MoMu will work with the Belgian artist Renato Nicolodi, who has designed new elements and installations for the exhibition spaces and will also exhibit own work. His archetypal, minimalist and classically inspired works take on a stimulating dialogue with the work of Madame Grès.

MoMu welcomes and recomposes the retrospective of Madame Grès from musée Gallièra, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, which was pre- sented in 2011 at the musée Bourdelle in Paris. This exhibition reunites Madame Grès silhouettes originating mostly from the Gallièra collections as well as some private collections.

Sorry, we’re closed

The MoMu exhibition space will be closed for the public from August 13th until September 11th. We will be back starting from September 12th with the expo ‘Madame Grès. Sculptural Fashion.’

Last Weekend for Living Fashion

oin us for the last weekend of the exhibition ‘Living Fashion‘!

The MoMu exhibition space will be closed from August 13th until September 11th, from September 12th we will open again with teh exhibition ‘Madame Grès. Sculptural Fashion‘

R.I.P. Anna Piaggi

Following the announcement of the passing away of Anna Piaggi, we would like to pay tribute to this marvellous and unique person.

We have been very lucky to collaborate with her in 2010 for our exhibition ‘Stephen Jones & the Accent of Fashion’. For this occasion, she agreed to participate to a special shooting for the expo catalogue in her Milan apartment and to pose with her close friend Stephen Jones, revealing her amazing personal collection of his hats.

The pictures give a good impression of what kind of friendship Stephen Jones and Anna Piaggi had, a union of two artistic souls.

Living Fashion Timelapse

When building up the Living Fashion expo, we set up a security camera in the exhibition space, allowing you to follow the progress in the scenography of the exhibition.
See how we start from a blank exhibition space and painted the cobblestones on the exhibition floor (in collaboration with our partner for paint Levis) and finish with setting up the dresses from the Jacoba de Jonge collection.

Museum night at the Fashion Museum

This year’s Antwerp Museum Night will take place on Saturday, August 4th. From 7PM, museums in the city are opening their doors for an alternative museum evening. They will present their respective collections and exhibitions, but they will also be organizing exceptional activities.

MoMu is taking part in this year’s Museum Night with the exhibition, ‘Living Fashion’.

Who has not dreamed of dressing up in the rich apparel of such 19th century figures as Marie-Antoinette or Madame de Pompadour? Even in the 19th century, gowns and dresses like these were highly popular attire for costume and masked balls.

Together with Diesel Black Gold and RA, MoMu will bring this atmosphere to life with a unique and magical costume ball. Fashionable masks, music and decor adapted for the occasion, and the presentation of historic masquerade gowns make the party complete. For all those with a sweet tooth, there are scrumptious macarons!

Be prepared …
Museumnacht / Museum Night – Saturday, 4 August 2012 – 7Pm until 1AM
MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp, Nationalestraat 28, 2000 Antwerp

open from 7PM, free entrance to Museum Night ticket holders

starts at 9PM in the hall of the museum, free to mask wearers (masks also available at the entrance desk), strict dresscode
music by Pop Rules, Jay and Soehindro
‘special cake entertainment’ by Miss Suzon
cocktails by RA Kitchen
set design by the Moodstudio

Interview with Jacoba de Jonge

The exhibition ‘Living Fashion’ Women’s Daily Wear 1750-1950 presents only 100 silhouettes from the 2500 items of the Jacoba de Jonge collection.

The story of the Jacoba de Jonge collection began when Jacoba was 15, with an heirloom, a wedding dress of reinforced silk, which she was allowed to try on because she was bored during a birthday party for her great aunt. The incredible heavy skirt, pulled her torso backwards, so that she stood ramrod straight, with a hollow back. She was barely able to walk, sit or move her arms. This made her realize how great an impact clothes had on the way people behaved.

She was allowed to rummage through her grandmother’s attic, where she discovered a veritable treasure trove, she suddenly had an entire collection of accessories with which to complement her acquisition.

Initially, she was not very knowledgeable about what she was doing. Her basic knowledge of the history of fashion came from a small book that her grandmother had given her.

In 1961, Jacoba presented an initial fashion show with her pieces, for a girls’ student association. The reactions were good, and Jacoba began giving more shows, inevitably completed by new acquisitions, not infrequently from the wardrobes and the fancy-dress chests of well-to-do families.

From this point, donations began arriving! Eventually, people found their way to her from all across the Netherlands.

‘People often do not realize what they have. They are delighted to have more information about their gifts and are happy that they can be conserved.’

Today, the Fashion Museum has plans to make the collection partially available as a study collection in MoMu’s library, for (fashion) students are researchers.
After all ‘things like this are learned over time, through physical contact, not just from lectures’.

This text is based on the catalogue ‘Living Fashion’
By Karen Van Godtsenhoven

Making patterns from historical costumes

Dress, ca. 1904, made from a crinoline dress, ca. 1865

When fabricating a pattern of a historical costume you will get a little bit acquainted with the wearer. Was she tall or short? Thin or fat? Did she had imperfections that needed to be camouflaged? Was she restricted in movement? Have there been alterations? You also get an insight in the techniques used for the construction.

The basic principle for making patterns from historical costumes is quite simple. You make a cross with two threads and you place them exactly on the weave and theft of the fabric of the pattern piece you want to take the pattern of. This is your starting point. Then you start taking measurements from here on and translate them to the paper were you also have drawn a cross. This sounds easy, but it is time consuming and you will need practice and knowledge of patternmaking to get a good result. You should also be aware that forms of patterns from the 18th and 19th century differ from contemporary ones, for instance the waist levels can be quite different. But most and foremost you have to keep in mind that you are working with historical costumes and that they are very fragile! A good support of the costume is needed.

Karen Van Godtsenhoven, co-curator of the expo: “We included patterns of three historical costumes from the Jacoba de Jonge collection in the exhibition’s catalogue because of the rise in popularity and demand for precise historical patterns. There aren’t very many of them around. We of course expect some people might actually reproduce the costumes.”

Text by Marieke van Es

Chintz at Living Fashion

Cotton chintzes have a special place in the Jacoba de Jonge collection. Their colourful, exuberant patterns attract immediate attention, and this was certainly true when these fabrics were first imported into Europe from India, back in the 15th century.

From the mid-18th century, printed cottons and woven linen fabrics had become increasingly popular. Multicoloured, hand-printed and hand-painted cotton produced in India and imported into Europe, saw such enormous success in the latter 17th and early 18th centuries that the local silk, wool and linen manufacturers mounted official protests. This led to the prohibition of their import and use in France, England and elsewhere. The northern Countries did not impose such an embargo, with the result that chintzes remained a more prominent presence in people’s wardrobes. After 1750 when government policies on printed cottons were relaxed in France and England, local entrepreneurs and traders responded with the manufacture of local products.

The first chintz had exotic patterns of fruits, birds, flowers and wildlife, the inspiration came from the observation of the exhuberant vegetation and fauna in India, Java and Iran. Order in chaos was the fundamental principle in design.
Repetition, alternation, expansion, synthesis were the rules. Chintz is usually made of cotton and often glazed to preserve the fabric and design. It was hand-drawn and dyed fabric from India.

The early chintzes were used for bed coverings and hangings, tablecloths, quilts and clothing.

These days, the English glazed chintzes are considered the finest in the world, cause textile manufacturers developed a was rasin process to replicate the shiny finish found in the imported fabrics.

Printed cottons of that period were washable, and in an age when personal hygiene was becoming more important, this was not an insignificant factor. In addition to this characteristic, attractive prices and fashion appeal helped win printed cottons a place in contemporary culture.

They were especially loved for less formal clothing, such as jackets, skirts and dressing gowns. The success of the chintzes also led to them being copied on the European continent, with manufacturers trying to use textile printing techniques to intimitate the original painting and printing methods.

Based on the catalogue ‘Living Fashion’
By Wim Mertens

Installation with chintz silhouettes from the Jacoba de Jonge collection, Photography: Ronald Stoops, 2012

Attitude to a shape

It is that time of the year where the Antwerp Fashion Department is hosting SHOW2012, the annual graduation show where the students from all 4 years present their work to an audience of 6.000 spectators on June 7th, 8th and 9th!

The MoMu Gallery is currently hosting the expo ‘ATTITUDE TO A SHAPE’, with a selection of the shape studies of the skirts from the 1st bachelor Antwerp Academy students.

The freshman year of the training in fashion design at the Antwerp Academy is composed around 3 main artistic subjects. The most important course is the one on fashion design. The other two main courses are graphics and tailoring/pattern design. Every freshman student has to start with the study of a skirt. This is actually the first design he or she makes at the school. For many students this is the first design they execute in 3D. Some students never handled a sewing machine before. The design phase takes about 6 weeks, the execution in an actual design takes from the 2nd week of November until the end of January.

‘ATTITUDE TO A SHAPE’ runs until June 3rd. Free entrance.

Photo:Skirt study drawing: Emmanuel Ryngaert, 2012