Andrew Bolton and Nicolas Ghesquière Track Fashion’s Shifting Relationship With the Past, Present, and Future 

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“About Time: Fashion and Duration” opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in late October after a six-month pandemic-related delay. At Vogue’s Forces of Fashion summit, its curator Andrew Bolton was joined by Nicolas Ghesquière, whose work for Louis Vuitton features in the exhibition, to discuss the show’s themes. All of the Met’s exhibits this year—its 150th anniversary—celebrate its permanent collection, but “About Time” isn’t a straightforward tour through the Costume Institute archives.

“Fashion,” Bolton explained, “isn’t about repeating itself, it’s about reinventing itself and recontextualizing itself.” And so he organized a series of 60 pairings or “interruptions” in which clothes from different decades—different centuries, even—are connected by shape, material, or technique. Ghesquière’s spring 2018 frock coat for example, is shown side-by-side with a riding jacket created for Princess Alexandra in 1902. Even more tantalizing for fashion lovers, a bubble dress from that Vuitton collection is matched with a bubble dress made by Cristobal Balenciaga in the 1950s; Balenciaga, of course, is the heritage brand that Ghesquière famously revived before landing at LV. “What’s interesting about Nicolas’s work,” Bolton said, “is when he looks at the past, he obliterates it. These ‘folds in time’ are about recurring motifs, but they’re emphatically of the time they were created.”

Ghesquière has spent time in the Costume Institute’s archives; he’s got a firmer handle on fashion’s past than many of his peers. Still, he says, his purpose is to capture the moment. “I think fashion brings collective and individual memories together. This is why when you’re a designer you have to acknowledge the world you are living in and to highlight styles and communities.” At his latest show, Ghesquière explored the idea of gender-neutral dressing. When future curators study it, what will it say about the time we’re living in now? Possibilities. “That’s what we are looking [at] when we see the young generations and the way they dress: the possibilities they give themselves with the exchange of silhouettes and clothes.”

To access Andrew Bolton and Nicolas Ghesquière’s conversation, visit Vogue’s Forces of Fashion.