“Echo,” a fashion show inspired by the BAM/PFA’s current exhibition “Silence,” featured the original work of designers from UC Berkeley and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. The designers each selected a work from the exhibition on which they based their designs, and models showcased the original works as they passed through the walkways of the museum.
Designers Madeline Abshier and Rajitha Kurmana were both inspired by Mark Manders’s “Silent Head on a Concrete Floor,” a sculpture depicting vertical slices of a human head between wooden slats. The work reminded Abshier of the “noise” of the fashion industry, and she attempted to capture a “stillness” with her black corseted floor-length gown, featuring a shoulder detail of silver spoons, added to represent the idea of “taking too much in.”
Kurmana’s design was more visually inspired by Manders’ piece. Her model wore a black bubble-hem satin gown, designed to embody the sharp angular gradation and depth of the artwork. Kurmana chose to place pleats on only one side of the gown to reflect the imbalance of Manders’ work.
Other designers took their inspiration from the concept of the artwork, such as Mayela Rodriguez, whose design was based on Robert Morris’ “Box with the Sound of Its Own Making.” Like Morris, Rodriguez is interested in creation. In her design, she covered a slip dress with words describing the making of a dress in the same way that the sounds of Morris’ piece express the making of a box. The slip was then worn inside-out by the model, with minimal makeup and hairstyling. The sides of the slip were lined with safety pins, emphasizing the incompleteness and construction of the design.
Designer Jennifer Huang joined her model on the walkway, both models barefoot in a pair of interlocking dresses, Huang’s hand connected to her model’s shoulder. Huang’s design was inspired by Tehching Hsieh’s “One Year Performance (Cage Piece),” a performance artwork in which the artist spent a year inside a cage without reading, listening to the radio or watching television. Huang also recalled one of the artist’s other works, “Art/Life: One Year Performance (Rope Piece),” in which Hsieh spent a year tied to performance artist Linda Montano, the two unable to touch each other. Huang was interested in expressing the sense of imprisonment in both works, and her piece made a striking impact as she and her model shuffled uncomfortably down the walkways.
The most impressive piece was the elaborate design by Yang Qu, inspired by Christian Marclay’s “White Rorschach Door (The Electric Chair).” Qu was moved by the corporeality of Marclay’s work, in which the artist makes a powerful statement about capital punishment, evoking the notion of silence as enforcement. Qu explained that she is also fascinated by the Black Death, which similarly influenced her design, focusing on the oppressive and silencing fear of death. Her design consisted of a stunning tulle and chantelle gown, a vinyl cage resting over the skirt and an exquisitely crafted bird mask, covered in ornate peach roses that extended onto the shoulders and scattered around the train of the gown. Qu explained that the flowers were inspired by the nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie,” a song that has been associated with the Black Death.
Lucinda Barnes, chief curator of the BAM/PFA, described in her opening speech for the show how, in the exhibition, silence is emphasized to such an extent that it becomes an unavoidable presence, an invitation to think and reflect. Throughout the fashion show, this presence was intensely felt, making for a compelling exploration of silence in all its forms.
Contact Meadhbh McGrath at [email protected].