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.