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Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala [Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson]

Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala [Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson]

The Met Gala might be as close as America gets to a royal ball. Formally known as the Costume Institute Gala, the fundraiser for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s expansive Costume Institute has been held every year since 1946. The exclusive event is attended by the biggest names in fashion, arts, and entertainment – everyone who’s anyone is there, darling, and if you’re lucky enough to garner an invitation, you’d better be looking fabulous on the big night. Each year, the gala is given a theme around which the evening (and the institute’s featured exhibition for the year) revolves, and guests are expected to dress to fit said theme. Some themes are clearer than others: 2013’s “punk couture” is pretty obvious, while 1971’s “Fashion Plate” theme was a bit, well, vague.

Regardless of the theme, the photos that come out of the Met Gala are as entertaining as the Oscars, if not more so – particularly for us amateur fashion critics. This year’s theme, however, has the potential to generate a lot of interesting discussion about more than which celebrity looked the classiest vs. the one who looked like the biggest loon. The 2016 Costume Institute Exhibit, along with the opening gala which will take place on Monday, May 2, has been given the theme “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” and will examine how modern fashion is being shaped by modern technology – and vice versa.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was the theme of the 2011 Met Gala [Image: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images]

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was the theme of the 2011 Costume Institute Exhibition [Image: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images]

“Fashion and technology are inextricably connected, more so now than ever before,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Met. “It is therefore timely to examine the roles that the handmade and the machine-made have played in the creative process. Often presented as oppositional, this exhibition proposes a new view in which the hand and the machine are mutual and equal protagonists.”

Laurel-shoe-on-model

Maybe you’ll see something like these 3D printed shoes from Continuum Fashion.

The exhibition, which we briefly touched on last year when it was first announced, will feature items made with traditional handmade crafting techniques like embroidery and lacework intermingled with smart wearables and machine-made designs. Expect to see a lot of 3D printed clothing and accessories, among items made with other machined techniques like laser cutting, ultrasonic welding and circular knitting. I assume there will also be features on smart technology and the Internet of Things, as well; it’s hard to talk about technology in fashion without mentioning those. On the other end of the spectrum will be classically designed pieces including a gown dating back to the 1880s.

The exhibition itself, which will be open to the public from May 5 to August 15, will also feature several “in process” workshops, including a 3D printing workshop in which guests can see firsthand how 3D printed clothing is created.

Unsurprisingly, Apple is sponsoring this year’s gala and exhibition; the tech giant has been quite focused lately on not only wearable technology but high-fashion wearable technology. Take the Apple Watch, for example: it’s a tiny computer you wear on your wrist, but it also doubles as a fashion statement with options that include everything from futuristic-looking bands to classic leather watches designed by Hermès.

watchapple“Both the automated and handcrafted process require similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise,” said Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer. “There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it’s the amount of care put into the craftsmanship, whether it’s machine-made or hand-made, that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary.”

I don’t doubt that the exhibition will be extraordinary to see, and I’m considering taking a trip to New York sometime during its run – I would absolutely love to see, in person, what goes into 3D printing a garment, if nothing else. All special exhibitions are free with general museum admission, which is $25 for adults, $12 for students, $17 for seniors 65 and up, and free for kids under 12 with accompanying adults. In the meantime, I’m already getting excited for the fashion show in itself that is the Met Gala – I’m hoping there will be light-up clothing involved this year. Discuss in the Met Gala Explores 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.

 

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