Students in the MA Fashion Studies program at Parsons Paris were recently given the unique opportunity to examine the role of the study collection at the Fashion Museum of Antwerp (MoMu) and stage an exhibition on their findings related to study collections throughout the world of art and design.
First, students traveled to Antwerp — a second major fashion center in Europe — for a two-day private workshop at the prestigious Fashion Museum of Antwerp. There, they worked directly with curators and staff to select and examine pieces from the museum’s study collection, which is made up of fashion objects that are imperfect, irreparably damaged or stained, and that are not part of the museum’s primary public collections. Students investigated the practices surrounding study collections in fashion museums, including those concerning selection, conservation, circulation, use, and access.
Students then spent several months researching their discoveries and preparing to stage their findings in an exhibit titled Objets d’Étude: The Politics of the Fashion Museum, which addressed the value and institutional use of garments and proposed alternative ways of discussing "the poetics of imperfection" in museum contexts. The exhibit also enabled students to engage their skills in cataloging, label writing, marketing, and more. Student Katie Wilkes, a member of the project team, described the task of curating and installing the exhibit as challenging yet rewarding and something “of which we can all be very proud.”
Eleven pieces from designers including Christian Dior and Yohji Yamamoto, as well as a deconstructed fake Burberry coat, were transported from Antwerp to Paris to be displayed in the exhibition. The opening night of the exhibit featured talks by experts and academics including Miren Arzalluz (Galliera Museum) and Dieter Suls (MoMu) discussing topics such as the politics of collecting and exhibiting fashion in museums and the use and role of study collections for fashion designers and other practitioners.