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Mechanical Couture

Start Date 14 October 2010
End Date 08 January 2011
Venue Design Museum Holon
Location Israel
Curator Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox

Haute Couture, by definition, is made-to-order, high-quality and hand-executed, and for centuries has signified the ultimate in luxury and exclusivity. Conversely, machines typify the antithesis of couture, implying mass-production and decreased standards. Currently, however, we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon of mechanical luxury – designers are reinterpreting couture as a hybrid of both mechanized process and customized craftsmanship. Designers who employ machines and technology neither for their streamlining abilities nor for their capacity to take advantage of mass production. Instead these designers look to machines to realize completely new forms and products. As opposed to simply incorporating technological components into wearable pieces, these designers either create new machines in order to realize their vision, they are inspired by machines as concepts, they turn to the machine as collaborator or surrogate in the design process, or the machine becomes part of the actual work. 

The decision to turn to machines can be motivated by various reasons – philosophical, psychological, physiological, socio-political and scientific – thus resulting in a wide range of distinct visual styles. This exhibition will explore each designer’s reasons and unique process in order to highlight these strategies. From witty lo-tech explorations to subtle inspirations and even mind-bending experiments, machines play a pivotal role in this redefinition of couture. 

Each installation within the exhibition is identified as belonging to one of four groups. These divisions are designed to highlight the specific role played by the machine through a simplified equation. 

Designer + Machine = Product features designers who directly incorporate a new machine or technology into their design processes in order to create new products. 

Concept = Machine = Product are examples of work that both were inspired by machinery and incorporate machinery in the finished product. 

Product = Machine presents products that become, as a result of the process, machines. 

Designer through Machine = Product highlights products that were created as a result of a machine-mediated process, not completely removing the designer from the design process, but giving over a substantial piece of the design phase to the machine.