The expansion of design practices over the past 10 years has witnessed the increasing use of the exhibition as a site for fashion designers to present their work.
Exhibitions are being used either to test potential ideas or put forward collections in contemplative and immersive environments.
The exhibition space allows the designer to engage with a different sense of wearer experience beyond the everyday into exploring imaginative, abstract and sensorial propositions.
Popularised by the likes of international designers Gareth Pugh and Hussein Chalayan – who produce extraordinary installations mixing film, stages of design development, experimentation and cross-disciplinary collaboration – exhibitions are advancing new ways of creating and experiencing fashion.
In 2010, The Endless Garment: The New Craft of Machine Knitting was held at RMIT Gallery. This exhibition, which I co-curated with Ricarda Bigolin, presented the work of contemporary international and Australian practitioners exploring the medium of knit.
The Endless Garment attracted large audiences who were mesmerised by the experience of viewing the latest knitting technology combined with garments sourced from the catwalks of Paris.
This year, RMIT’s fourth year Bachelor of Design (Fashion) students were given the opportunity to consider engaging with exhibition practices to put forward less familiar understandings and representations of fashion.
Leaving behind the conventions of fashion, the students are challenging the understanding of fashion through experiments with design process, communication, materiality, technique and the experience of the wearer.
In the Three and three-quarters exhibition these outcomes are surprising, speculative, progressive and experimental.
Students have used the exhibition to test diverse design ideas that explore the potential of fashion as an exciting medium of expression of community, environment and identity.
From animated dressing programs, to sensuous lingerie environments, topographical pattern making or resin-moulded accessory forms, the exhibition looks to the future directions of fashion and anticipates new forms of expression.
The spectacle of fashion is no longer confined to the runway. Exhibitions extend the magic of fashion to tantalise, to entertain and suggest new avenues that will continue to grow in popularity for both designers and the followers of fashion.
Associate Professor Robyn Healy is co-Program Director of Fashion in the School of Architecture and Design, and co-curator of the RMIT student exhibition. Three and three-quarters is at No Vacancy Gallery from 6-18 September.