Documentaries // The First Monday in May - China Through The Looking Glass

Although it is agreed that not all Fashion is Art and some is indeed Commercial, people continually underestimate the power of clothes to tell stories or speak to people. It is the human impulse to communicate and express; fashion represents what is happening in society; politically and economically. Five to Six thousand pieces of haute couture were paired with the entire asian wing, and the exhibit covered three locations with in The Met in order to celebrate a multicultural moment.

"Anna Winter has understood that high fashion, the most extraordinary expiration of this medium, when paired with celebrities, it becomes something bigger than both. Transcending. "

As, not only an insight into the highly secretive Met Gala and Anna Winters role within it, but into the production & work that goes into world-wide accredited exhibition and the creative history of China, I found this an incredibly insightful film. Having expected the usual Anna-Winter-approved standard of documentary, the breadth of knowledge resulted in me writing numerous pages of notes and points of further research. The First Monday in May goes on to highlight many of the controversial issues the exhibit and both the East and West face; the perennial debate of whether fashion can be Art, what the contemporary Chinese aesthetic is, the appropriation of cultures in fashion and art, and the image we have of China, through the stereotypes depicted in films in the past. Today we constantly look to the East for inspiration, and there is an ongoing dialogue between the East and West that most don't expect to be there any further than manufacturers and into the contrasting creative worlds.

"The image of China is a fabulous invention." 

Often film is the first lens through which western designers encounter Chinese imagery, and the exhibit explores the impact of movies in shaping their fantasies. Films created by the West show women as either 'the dragon lady' or contrastingly 'the cotton blossom', normally the 'femme fatale', as quasi matriarchal, financially independent, and sexually liberated. It is a feminist interpretation. 
Within the exhibit itself, film is the filter between art objects and the high fashion. Its use within the exhibit it is sometimes directly related, sometimes as a metaphoric device; projected against almost spectral figures throughout it acts as a continuity in addition to expression. 

However many risks went with the production. The new generation of China benefitted from rapid progress and modernisation within their last hundred years, causing the exhibit to be initially politicised by Chinese Reporters claiming that the West was, once again, seen to be plundering the East for inspiration. The exhibit created debate around colonialism and orientalist which could be interpreted as Racism. 
The question of what the modern Chinese aesthetic is, is described by the world renowned designer Guo Pei; "China destroyed their tradition when Eastern and Western cultures collided together. Wisdom was left by Ancestors and these skills can be used to create something new for the nation. Fashion designers of today in china are integrating traditional Chinese culture back into fashion with modern aesthetics."
It must also be noted that the inclusion of numerous film clips led to concerns for the exhibit, it is necessary to ensure people don't find the intensity of the installation and the 'imposition' of the design so powerful that it overshadows the intellectual content. And that it diminishes the focus on the intellectual content by the use of any gimmicks used to"create hype". 

Further viewing - "The Last Emperor" 1987, "Raise the Red Lantern" 1991, "Farewell my Concubine" 1993, "In the Mood for Love" 2000, "The Shanghai Gesture" 1941, "The Shanghai Express" 1932.
Persons involved -  Andrew W Bolton, Thomas Campbell, Anna Wintour, Baz Lurhmann, Wong Kar Wai, Alexander Mcqueen, John Paul Gaultier, Riccardo Tisci, Guo Pei, Diana Vreeland, Sylvana Ward Durrett, Stephen Jones.

#AnnaWintour #MetGala #TheFirstMondayInMay #ChinaThroughTheLookingGlass #SavageBeauty #WongKarWai #Vogue

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