Monday, January 28, 2008

Dye Job

Hamish Morrow

Hamish MorrowHamish MorrowHamish MorrowHamish Morrow

Hamish Morrow (British, born South Africa, 1968). Ensemble, spring/summer 2002. White polyester mesh, ivory and white silk/nylon blend foliate damask dipped in purple dye; faceted glass, silver wire, and white cotton canvas ties. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Hamish Morrow, 2006 (2006.367a–d).

Hamish Morrow is known for his adventurous exploration of materials and techniques—for example, employing ultrasonic welding or computerized printing. This dress, with its glass-beaded sleeves, harness-like strapping, and pleated skirt hitched up and applied to the athletic mesh undershirt, is at once romantic and faintly unsettling. As with the other designs shown in his spring/summer 2002 collection, it was dragged through a shallow pool of purple ink. Its saturated hem then slowly revealed a previously undetectable white-on-white, pigment-printed pattern of Spitalfields silk. As the model stepped out of the pool, the ink-soaked skirt created a streak of color on the white walkway. This ritualistic progression of the models in ensembles of disquieting post-modernist assemblage opened the collection to the possibility of more subjective interpretations by the audience than Morrow’s stated formalist intention of simply representing a shift from “function to decoration.”

The collection was built around perception and the evolution of clothing from function to pure decoration, like a bird of paradise, precariously existing in a microclimate on the edge of extinction. In the outfit displayed, these two elements combine and are explained separately below, in an exploration of the subjective visual relationship between clothes and their audience.

In a fashion show, the clothes are shown “finished,” the audience experience is passive. I wanted to complete the collection in front of the audience and make them involved in the final outcome; hence the white clothes were walked through a dye bath to dye them randomly and then trail them—which is why all the clothes were long—down a canvas catwalk, painting the process in real time.

The evolution of clothing from function to decoration is examined as garments wrap around the body and fold back on themselves, echoing fluctuation and change. The crystal sleeves are part of a jacket, constructed from hand-woven steel wire and crystal beads, and have been rendered purely decorative, no longer functioning as garment, though derived from clothing. The sleeves are dismembered and strapped to the body as jewelry/decoration.

—Hamish Morrow

Comments (39)

  1. Laurie Aron Says:

    This piece is intriguing and puzzling. I love the idea that the models trailed the edge of their dresses through a dye bath to finalize them in front of the audience. All that delicacy of touch evident in the skirt and the sleeves is rather blunted by the bodice which looks like a restraint device. We have the designer’s word that he’s exploring the evolution of clothing from function to decoration, but the finished dress looks more like he’s saying all this decoration is crazy, put it in a strait jacket!

  2. Abigail Scholar Says:

    I am lucky enough to own a pair of the boots from this season and one of the athletic mesh tank tops. Hamish Morrow is one of the most significant designers of our time and one of the most underrated. The intricacy of his practice, particularly with this white collection, is often subverted by the simultaneity of its quietly colored palate and sheer opulence (in other pieces form this collection there are the most amazing brocades being used).
    This fantastical elements of these unique works and their transformation through performative acts, the movement of the models under and through the trails of dye, is part of an artistic oeuvre that can be traced through back through the history of 20th century artistic practice as well as that of the most innovative moments in fashion as well. The visual practices that he references and employs are inspirational in their complexity and delicacy.

  3. Laurie Aron Says:

    But what is the relationship between the opulence and the highly functional-looking harnessed top?

  4. marina urbach Says:

    “But what is the relationship between the opulence and the highly functional-looking harnessed top?
    Good question. Perhaps a masculine, feminine juxtaposition, marriage, confrontation, not unlike the McLaren, Westwood outfit or the Chalayan one.
    This is the good job of the curators: to present pieces that acquire surplus meaning when juxtaposed with others in a productive, original interesting dialogue.

  5. c willow Says:

    I think that its sort of strange, but still pretty. Thats hard because a lot of dresses are edgy but ugly.

  6. Laurie Aron Says:

    Oh, this is definitely a brilliantly curated exhibit–garments that riff off one another, amplify one another, speak to one another. I wonder what sort of conversations the Costin necklace might have with that hugely panniered French dress?

    But I look at this particular Hamish Morrow dress and I’m just jarred. Contrast for the sake of it? Modern techno world vs. old world custom made? I don’t see it as confrontational per se because it’s so softened by the luxe, unlike the Westwood black “smash & grab”. Male and female, sure, marriage, any number of other possibilities. Self-sufficient vs. “kept”?

    I’m puzzled also by the long explanation of the dye process, and no mention of the parachute-y top, although “finished” may be the key. He doesn’t want the clothes “finished” before people see them, hence the dye process, but also perhaps the top is behind barriers as a work in process?

  7. Serena Gabler Says:

    This looks like something my mom used to wear :). Seriously.

  8. Laurie Aron Says:

    Gee, when and where did she get it?

  9. aminah rose Says:

    I love this beautful dress. The way the dress is dezined , it’s great!!!!!!!! You she call it frizle.

  10. Sierra Says:

    I love these clothes they are really nice. I also like the polka dot shoes and the hot pink shoes they are both really stylish. I <3 these clothes and shoes.

  11. Valentine Says:

    Seems I have a different opinion than other people in this dress’s comment board. But never mind that, I just want to say i don’t really love this dress. don’t get me wrong- It’s not UGLY. It’s just not my type of dress. That’s really it!

  12. Jane Says:

    Beautiful! I really like this piece!

  13. marina urbach Says:

    ‘I wonder what sort of conversations the Costin necklace might have with that hugely panniered French dress?’
    You would be very surprised!
    They have more in common than we think.

  14. Laurie Aron Says:

    “They have more in common than we think.”

    I have no doubt! Especially in view of all the mistresses routinely kept by the French kings of the ancien regime and other members of the aristocracy, and how many of the resulting children managed to do pretty well for themselves. And, I suppose, more directly, how mistresses, although usually loyal to the king, may have made their way from sponsor to sponsor at the next lower level.

  15. kelly velikonya Says:

    I really liked this piece. I found it very interesting. The overall piece visually did not flow but when you analyze it is very well constructed. The purple dye on the bottom pops and makes the garment really unique. Also, I find the combination of fabrics unique as well.

  16. csovern Says:

    It first puzzled me when I saw this garment seeing it appeared to be unfinished. After researching the design I now understand the concept behind it. Even though the garment puzzled me I was attracted to it because of the dye. The dyeing job is outstanding, the shades are amazing and they run into each other perfectly. Even though the crystal sleeves are not functional, they are something you would not see anywhere else. It was very interesting to see something done so uniquely, seeing you don’t see such detail to pieces these days.

  17. Kristen Wigle Says:

    I really liked the way the coloration is on this dress. Its not something I have no seen before, but it sure is nice to look at in this show. There were so amny wonderful pieces and this one is sort of just nice. It is a piece that gets lost in how everything else is so amazing. I found myself just shrugging and moving on. I really think that this dress would be better if it wasnt shown with so many amazing pieces, it gets lost in the noise.

  18. Tama Says:

    I really like this idea since it is so conceptual. Despite its success as an interactive look at the fashion process for the runway show audience, the dress doesn’t seem practical to wear to any event. The draping of the pleated fabric in the skirt, however, is quite lovely.

  19. Andrew Spargo Says:

    This piece is defiantly a good example of how photography can change the appearance of what is really and what you see. The major difference I found after seeing this piece in person is the color, it almost seems more vibrant in the photograph but you don’t get the crystal effect on the sleeves without seeing it with light shining on it.

  20. Miriam Hohag Says:

    The process as the final result, incorporating a sort of performance art, is a concept that is revisited from time to time. Several years later, the process-as-art concept was used (and is displayed in this exhibition) by Galliano at Dior. I think that especially for those who have played an active role in the design and construction of imaginative garments, this approach is fascinating.

  21. lilyana ruiz Says:

    This piece looks like a hollywood straight jacket I like the crystal but somehow doesn’t work for me.

  22. francie Sullivan Says:

    What fun to see the extremes of fashion and how they were converted into clothes for most of us! Great idea to blog! Thank you!

  23. fimo Says:

    am i a jogger thats broken their torso and decided to were a skirt???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Elizabeth Peteya Says:

    I love it. It’s victorian meets urban.It’s fabulous.

  25. Maisie S. (age 8) Says:

    It looks like many different pieces of clothing put into one dress: some of it looks like a running shirt and some of it looks like a dress that you might wear to a prom. Each part has its match: the sports running part has a skirt and shirt; the kind that looks like the prom has sleeves and a lower ruffles on the side. The colors on the bottom match the sleeves–I like how the colors blend together.

  26. Rebecca Says:

    I absolutely love the dress. I love the purple tye dye on the bottom of the dress!
    If I had it I would wear it to a party, and show it off! I love the sleaves and how they are rainbow glass! It’s a very beautiful dress!

  27. juile.s.shin Says:

    i like the colors

  28. Stella Lee Says:

    Pretty cool dress…sleeves and upper body are amazing….compositionally awkward though….too much going on….would be better as two different dresses for my taste.

  29. Nicole Says:

    i love this dress especially the bottom,… id totally rock it at prom

  30. Gigi Says:


    i love this outfit it looks soooo HOTTTTT

    i would LOVE to wear itttt !!!!!!


  31. rebecca Says:

    Beautifuly designed and masterfully colored. The desinged of this dess is impecable and smart.

  32. LANDON J. JONES Says:


  33. Melody Says:

    This Morrow dress encited the strongest response from me out of all the pieces in this exhibit. The combination of discordant pieces left me with this agitated, anxious feeling. I also appreciated how the dress was not completed until it was dragged through the dye and walked down the runway. This feeling of incompletion further exacerbates the emotional response of unsettling…transience…confusion….

  34. claire Says:

    I like this dress so much. I like it because it has the sparkley sleeves and the purple at the bottom. When I grow up, I would wear it to any special occasion. Hamish Morrow is another great designer.

  35. meimi1995529 Says:

    the skirt, the top, and the sleeves really dont go together but seperatly they’re all really nice.

  36. momo Says:

    its a perfect blend of colors!!!!!

  37. Ginko Says:

    This dress is intriguing. I don’t epsecially like the sleeves, but I love the train. The torso is an interesting mix of styles. I think purple was the perfect color for the train.

  38. chelssea Says:

    absolutely smashing!

  39. Janelizabeth Says:

    It has so many interesting parts, but it’s like it’s too much for my brain. Too many colors, pieces, textures. I can’t see it as a whole outfit. Other pieces with a lot going on I can somehow make sense of and say that I like because the fabric is all the same, or the same color, or there is something unifying. This makes me feel unsettled and frustrated.

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