Reimagining Fashion as Decorative Art

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The New York Sun

It’s not every day a clothing auction draws the attention of a 20th-century decorative art and design specialist. But that’s just what happened when Simon Andrews learned that his employer, Christie’s, planned to sell the private collection of the co-founders of the renowned boutique Resurrection. Mark Haddawy and Katy Rodriguez opened the Mott Street shop dedicated to vintage and historic clothing in 1996.

“These garments are as important as furniture, automobiles, and architecture in the development of 20th-century design,” Mr. Andrews, a senior specialist at the Christie’s salesroom in South Kensington, London, said. “These are garments that are three-dimensional objects, many of which are assembled with pliers and hammers, not sewing machines.”

Christie’s will put the 250 or so pieces of clothing, headwear, and jewelry on the block in London on October 30.

The director of the textile department at Christie’s, Pat Frost, and her colleague, Mr. Andrews, were in New York recently to discuss the most notable lots in the collection; also on hand were Mr. Haddawy and Ms. Rodriguez.

“We’ve never offered anything like this before,” Mrs. Frost said. “The designers in this collection changed the way we look at fashion. And let’s not forget that this [is] a collection that was never part of the store.”

The oldest lots in the sale date back to the 1950s, a time when advances in textiles science were changing the way people thought about clothing fabrics. A group of visionary young designers, including Pierre Cardin, Andres Courreges, Emilio Pucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Paco Rabanne in Europe, and Rudi Gernreich in America, challenged the established couturiers with their embrace of materials such as plastic, vinyl, metal, and rubber.

Paco Rabanne’s designs are perhaps the most extraordinary in the Resurrection collection, including one dress that uses no fabric at all. Two garments by Rabanne drew the biggest crowds at a Rockefeller Center viewing earlier this month: an aluminum riveted plate dress, estimated to sell for between $8,764 and $12,270, and a full-length wedding dress made from plates of white leather linked by metal rings, estimated to sell for between $10,517 and $14,023. “The wedding dress was commissioned but the wedding never took place. It was never worn and you’ll never see another dress like this one,” Mrs. Frost said.

A bubble cape by Pierre Cardin, estimated to sell for $7,011 to $10,517, uses hot-red “wet-look” plastic in a round shape that completely hides the figure of the wearer. “Space-age Pierre Cardin from the 1960s is difficult to find,” Mrs. Frost said. “The wet-look plastic still looks new. Any museum would be happy to have this garment.”

In the 1970s, Londoners Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren opened a King’s Road boutique called “Let It Rock,” where they produced torn and defaced clothing — “radical and subversive,” according to Christie’s — that became the cornerstone of the punk look.

A hooded minidress designed by Azzedine Alaia and made famous in the 1980s by the androgynous Grace Jones is estimated to sell for between $875 and $1,750. Also in the collection is a gold leather evening dress by Gianni Versace from the early 1990s, priced between $1,750 and $3,500. “It was Versace doing bondage in luxury terms,” Mrs. Frost said.

jakasie@nysun.com


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