RRRIPP!! : PAPER FASHION
RRRIPP!!
PAPER FASHION
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.

RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Cepress_Collar_A_Atopos
RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Cepress_Collar_A_Atopos


Forty years on, ATOPOS has similarly commissioned contemporary artists such as Robert Wilson and Irini Miga to add their idea of colour onto the original white paper dresses that form part of the collection. Also, in the spirit of creative recycling, ATOPOS has given several duplicate paper dresses from the collection to contemporary fashion designers and artists for them to make into new creations and works of art. These new creations are signed by contemporary artists and designers and, especially for the Mudam exhibition, by Maurizio Galante. Renowned fashion designers have also been known to use paper for their creations. While, during the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli reversed the principle by printing newspaper extracts on fabrics in order to highlight the time relevance and transience of her designs (a process that John Galliano relaunched in 2004),

in 1967 Paco Rabanne, influenced by the mass phenomenon in the USA, launched his own disposable dresses and wedding gowns and, in conjunction with the Hilton hotel group, designed disposable pyjamas and nightgowns. Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela, A. F. Vande Vorst, Issey Miyake, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and others have used the malleable characteristics of paper not just for samples of their creations or for rare catwalk garments and, ever since the 1980s they have also been using modern, paper-like materials, mainly Tyvek, for actual individual pieces of their collections.


RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Hussein Chalayan.
RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! Hussein Chalayan.


The gradually emerging shortage of paper is being met through science in various experimental projects with the synthesis of a “renewable” paper-like material, designed with the help of biotechnologies. In the project “BioCouture” conducted by Suzanne Lee in the U.K., bacterial cellulose is used in order to grow clothes. This project can be regarded as a direct critique of the large scale, worldwide pollution generated by the textile industry by presenting potential solutions found in biotechnology. Some fashion designers are also concerned with the topic of recycling. Issey Miyake, for instance, points out alternatives to our everyday behavior in his research project called “Pleats dresses, paper trial, research process”.

Exhibits:

The Atopos paper dress collection, Sandra Backlund, Walter Van Beirendonck, Karim Bonnet/Takashi Murakami, Bless, Hugo Boss/James Rosenquist, Sarah Caplan, Jean- Charles de Castelbajac, Michael Cepress, Hussein Chalayan, Ann Demeulemeester, Yiorgos Eleftheriades/Kristina P., Maurizio Galante, John Galliano, Harry Gordon, Mathew Holloway, Travis Hutchison, Zoe Keramea, Yannis Kyriakides, Bas Kosters, Tao Kurihara pour Comme des Garçons, Helmut Lang, Suzanne Lee, Jean-Paul Lespagnard, Martin Margiela, Irini Miga, Issey Miyake, Jum Nakao, Hiroaki Ohya, Angelo Plessas, Dirk Van Saene, Deepak Raja Shrestha, Raf Simons, Reiko Sudo/Nuno, Marcus Tomlinson/Gareth Pugh, Kosuke Tsumura, UEG, A.F. Vandevorst, Junya Watanabe, Robert Wilson, Vassilis Zidianakis

RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! SOUPER DRESS
RRRIPPI Fashion/RRRIPP!! SOUPER DRESS


*ATOPOS and its paper fashion collection

ATOPOS (a name inspired by an ancient Greek word, which denotes the strange, the unwonted, the eccentric, the unclassifiable) is an international non-profit cultural organization based in Athens. Founded in 2003 by Stamos J. Fafalios and Vassilis Zidianakis, its aim is to carry out innovative projects which bring together new technologies with design, fashion and contemporary art. Atopos is a think-tank of different visual cultures and operates as a workshop. It works closely with emerging talent on research projects, based on current international themes, and trends that are developed in Greece. Once the project has been
exhibited in Greece, it then travels abroad.

The ATOPOS collection aims to combine as many objects as possible as illustrative material for the research into the history of fashion and design, whereby the focus is on innovative and hitherto unexplored subjects. At the same time, ATOPOS endeavours to incorporate the collection into new exhibition concepts in both an experimental and object-inspired manner. In the context of its “Art and Technology in Fashion” research project, ATOPOS started to collect American paper dresses of the sixties, which were of interest given their innovative material. The aesthetic power of these clothes, as well as their fragility and modesty, led ATOPOS to collect more than 400 pieces from this era, including hats and accessories.

The collection is supplemented with printed material, such as advertisements or magazines dealing with the phenomenon of paper fashion and thus providing additional information on the subject. Over the course of the research, it soon became clear that the relationship between fashion and paper occupies its own chapter in history. Its origins remain murky and its raison d’être is likely to be social, religious, financial or artistic. ATOPOS has succeeded in sourcing and acquiring some rare Japanese paper garments dating from the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods, which alongside some historical examples from China - testify to a subtle beauty and human artistry and representatively link the long history of paper fashion to the short-lived fad of the 1960s.

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