MANUS x MACHINA, Fashion in an Age of Technology, is this year's highly celebrated Met Costume Institute exhibition. And along with that comes the beautiful spectacle/fundraiser that is The Met Gala. With Apple as its corporate sponsor and Sir Jonathan Ive as its cohost, the tone deafness with which both the fashion and tech flock drown each other with praise is breathtaking.
The idea at the center of the exhibition is a fascinating one, that of exploring “…the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of mass production,” exploring the “ongoing dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process.” Discordant, maybe, but not solely in the way Andrew Bolton has presented it to us in this lovely show.
It seems they have chosen to look away once again from the realities of mass production, preferring to think only of some great machine that miraculously creates fast fashion, which is the driver of the fashion industry, while also somehow “assembling” everyone's phone in the process. Forget all about the fact that now more than ever, mass production and machines are responsible for unforgivable atrocities and labor practices.
They pretend technology has freed so many hands, though the ugly truth is sadly the opposite. It's easy to throw out words like innovation and disruption, both elevated to royal status in this time of great technological evolution. But of course, just because words are spoken doesn’t make them true. Though every industry is guilty of this, fashion and its tech wanting to be fashion partners could truly be creative and develop new ways, new systems, and new processes that don’t rely on a slave labor reality they want us to forget. No watch can cover that up, not even with an Hermes strap. I believe that true and lasting innovation must not have so much to hide.