Vassilis Zidianakis, October 20, 2008
Following the Musée Benaki in Athens and in advance of the Musée de la Mode in Anvers and the London Design Museum, Mudam presents RRRIPP!! Paper Fashion. This exhibition, conceived by ATOPOS*, is the result of years of research into paper clothing, a phenomenon that was very fashionable in the United States towards the end of the 1960s but not wellknown to the general public. Starting with an analysis of the historical context, the exhibition approaches, in an original way, the use of cellulose-based materials for the conception of cloth (woven or not) resembling paper and its equivalents. While presenting various current uses of paper in fashion design, it will also exhibit art objects and publicity material as well as films of fashion shows of recent creations by some of the most innovative designers including Hiroaki Ohya, Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyake. The exhibition RRRIPP!! Paper Fashion has been conceived as an evolving apparatus which will offer a new angle of approach at each stage of its itinerary, investigating the history and the development of paper materials.

RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Airmail Dress
RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Airmail Dress
On the history of paper fashion - wearable paper during the 1960s

When thinking of garments made out of paper, the self-made hat from newspaper most probably comes to mind. Yet in China and Japan, the tradition of using this cheaper material to manufacture clothing items dates back to the 8th century. In addition to Kamiko, a multilayered starched paper as smooth as fabric, there is also the tradition of Shifu, in which the pages of old accounting books are cut into twine and after being treated are used for weaving or knitting. Paper, as a textile substitute, was used not only in times of need, such as in Germany during the two World Wars, but in the United States and Europe as early as the 19th century due to its lower cost for disposable accessories such as the detachable collars and cuffs of men’s shirts.

RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Harry Gordon
RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Harry Gordon
The short-lived fad of disposable paper clothing was triggered in the USA in 1966 by the Scott Paper Company, a paper manufacturer which, with this simple advertising article, targeted the consumers of a throw-away society. Light and modern, they were manufactured mostly from innovative non-woven materials that included, apart from cellulose the basic material for the production of paper, cotton, rayon, polyester fibres and new-technology synthetic fibres that responded to a need at the time. The unexpected success of the Scott paper dresses triggered the popularity of Paper Fashion, which was to subside only in 1968 due to rising ecological awareness. During these two years, a mass market for one-off paper garments was created. These garments were adorned with themes derived from Pop and Op Art, fashionable at the time, or else they featured psychedelic designs, trade marks or even images of the Presidential candidates.

 As a half-way vehicle between advertising medium and fashion article, the paper dress was exploited not only by daily newspapers or the Yellow Pages, but also by Campbell’s Soup, Universal Studios and other companies, who used the phenomenon to promote their products or their film stars by printing them on garments, in the style of Andy Warhol’s screen paintings. Warhol was himself commissioned by the Mars Manufacturing Company to take part in an advertising campaign to promote their simple white paper dresses, which were each sold with a set of watercolours, allowing purchasers to create their own individual designs. The dresses created in situ by Warhol for the singer Nico (the one silk-screened with the word “FRAGILE” and signed “Dalí”, and the other with large silk-screened bananas) and donated to the Brooklyn Museum, have elevated paper garments to the status of works of art.

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