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The Cutting Edge

Date Nov 19, 2008 - Jul 7, 2009
Artists Lyn Carter, Rashmi Varma and Lily Yung
Curated by Patricia Bentley

Exhibition Overview

The Cutting Edge focuses on the shape of a garment, and what it signifies.

The exhibition features garments from the Textile Museum of Canada’s collection in conversation with contemporary objects that range from the haute couture of Issey Miyake and Yoshiki Hishinuma, to the fashion designs of Rashmi Varma and Yumi Eto, and the work of artists Lyn Carter and Lily Yung.

Additional Information

Drawing primarily from the Textile Museum of Canada’s global collection The Cutting Edge tells the story of the garment – designed to protect, cover and beautify the body. From ancient uncut fabric, ornately decorated and flowing kimono to heavily pieced and shaped European garments, The Cutting Edge shows the transitions of fashion through time and around the world.

The exhibition, focusing on the process of making a 2-dimensional textile cover a 3-dimensional moving object (the body), is an exploration of human ingenuity. While its manufacturing is a feat of engineering, a garment’s capability to carry and translate meaning is even more fascinating.

The Cutting Edge explores clothing as communicator. Whether overtly reflective of cultural beliefs and attitudes or subtly suggestive and ambiguous, how we choose to dress is filled with meaning. The exhibition explores this idea through examining the differences between men’s and women’s garments as well as what parts of the body are concealed, revealed or exaggerated — always with a global perspective.

The discussion of fashion would not be complete without a long, hard look into the future. Fashion can be a conforming element reinforcing societal attitudes, but at the same time fashion can be revolutionary. The Cutting Edge features TMC artifacts in conversation with contemporary objects that range from the haute couture of Issey Miyake and Yoshiki Hishinuma, to the fashion designs of Rashmi Varma and Yumi Eto and the work of artists Lyn Carter and Lily Yung.

Related Programs and Events

Curator's Tour
Wednesday June 17, 6:30 pm
Join Patricia Bentley in the galleries for a discussion of The Cutting Edge.
Free with admission.

The Cutting Edge - Build a Garment
Explore our interactive Build a Garment space in The Cutting Edge. Send us a photo of your fashion and we will post it here.

View Collection Artifacts from this Exhibition

The Cutting Edge

Curatorial Essay by Patricia Bentley

Clothes serve many needs - people wear them for warmth and protection, to cover their nakedness and to enhance their appearance. Clothes signify our most essential attributes - male or female, rich or poor, member (or not) of a cultural group. Like music and dance, dress communicates cultural meanings. These meanings are encoded in clothes not only through embroidery and other embellishments but also through the way cloth is cut and shaped.

Trying to isolate a garment's shapes from the textures and patterns of its cloth is a bit like attempting to hear only one instrument during a richly orchestrated symphony. Each component of a piece of clothing - simple or complex cut and construction, stiff or limp “hand” or feel of the cloth, small or large surface patterns or no patterns - affects the other components. The Cutting Edge focuses on the shape of a garment, and what it signifies.

Contemporary fashion in the Western world is characterized by rapid change. Should clothes of non-Western cultures be included in an examination of fashion? Yes - they flow into the vast pool of styles feeding fashions of the moment and contributing to the bricolages or mash-ups of contemporary and traditional clothing that populate world fashion in the 21st century.

The Cutting Edge features garments from the Textile Museum of Canada's collection in conversation with contemporary objects that range from the haute couture of Issey Miyake and Yoshiki Hishinuma, to the fashion designs of Rashmi Varma and Yumi Eto, and the work of artists Lyn Carter and Lily Yung. Each artist or designer investigates different traditions, time periods and methodologies, creating uniquely hybrid work - for example, in the case of Miyake and Hishinuma, the creations draw from both Asian traditions and European fashions.

As a fashion designer, a costume designer for film and a costume scholar, Rashmi Varma is inspired by diverse textile histories, including but not limited to those of South Asia. Her Birhari lace dress finds many points of reference in the exhibition: the transparency of its lace corresponds to transparent jamdani saris and to the Belgian needle-lace ensemble on the cover. The draping of its skirt recalls the graceful drape of a sari as it is wrapped on a body.

Canadian jewelry designer Lily Yung is well known for her explorations with form and technology. In her work, Yung explores the qualities of positive/negative shapes, plasticity of materials and the use of empty space as a design element. Her experimental spirit evokes that of Yumi Eto, and it also invites comparison to the transparency of the Belgian lace ensemble on the cover. In 2004 Yung began a residency at the NRC Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Institute in London, Ontario, where she works with Sherman Lang and other researchers to develop and apply virtual and rapid prototyping technologies to create customized designs.

In her two works on view in the exhibition, Lyn Carter has invested abstract, human-sized shapes with figure-like potency, creating stand-ins for clothed bodies that both suggest and deny their associations with clothing. Carter shares with the contemporary designers displayed in The Cutting Edge a nonchalant acceptance of synthetic polyester as the ubiquitous material of the 21st century; she shares with the anonymous clothing makers in these galleries an expertise in sewing a fine seam. However, her patterned skins do not just fit an existing structure; they are the structure that surrounds an empty interior. In her use of patternmaking as a sculptural tool, Carter brings into play classic sculptural sensibilities like mass and void, weight and lightness, suspension and gravity.

© 2008 Textile Museum of Canada