This Thursday I had the pleasure of attending the exhibition preview for the Royal Ontario Museum’s latest exhibition, “Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting” at the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume on behalf of Shrimpton Couture. The focus of the exhibition was centered on the work of Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri. Camilleri is a mainstay in Canadian women’s fashion and pioneer of an entirely new breed of designs made in consideration of the unique needs of those in wheelchairs. In the opening remarks made by exhibit curator, Alexandra Palmer, she spoke on how the title of the exhibition was a play on the famed principle of modernist architecture, “form follows function.” Fashion on the whole tends to favor the formal elements of a garment over its functional qualities, resulting in clothes which look beautiful on but are entirely impractical for the wearer. This exhibition aims to refocus the design process on fashion’s functional properties through Izzy Camilleri’s line of wheelchair fashions, IZAdaptive. Her revolutionary designs are simultaneously contextualized within a broader history of 18th and 19th century fashion objects designed with the seated position in mind.
The clothes themselves were impeccably designed and crafted. Many of Ms. Camilleri’s pieces were curated to appear on mannequins in both a seated and upright position. When seated, the clothes appeared as standard wardrobe staples––a beige trench coat, a leather motorcycle jacket, a white collared shirt. When worn standing, the cleverness of the design and construction reveal themselves in the very avant-garde forms the clothes take on. The brilliance of Izzy Camilleri’s work hides in plain sight when worn on its intended wearer and takes on a double life when seen upright. Not only were the designs themselves incredibly ingenious, but the clothes were aesthetically quite attractive. While the intended wearers of the clothes may be those in wheelchairs, I found myself coveting some of the pieces on display. With IZAdaptive, Izzy Camilleri managed to satisfy the needs of a very specific wearer while creating clothing which readily appeals to individuals beyond the scope of her design’s focus.
Highlights of the evening included opening remarks by honorary exhibition chair and host of Fashion Television, Jeanne Beker, who wore her own custom Izzy Camilleri leather jacket as well as a few words from the designer herself on her work. In addition to her work for IZAdaptive, pieces from various collections of Izzy Camilleri’s mainline were also on display, including a copy of the dyed red silver fox jacket worn by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. My personal favorite piece from the collection was a motorcycle jacket made of the butteriest leather imaginable which included an open back and a zipper down the upper spine for ease of dressing and removal.
If you are in the Toronto area, I highly recommend finding an opportunity to visit this well curated exhibit. “Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting” is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum from June 21, 2014 to January 25, 2015. For more information visit rom.on.ca.
(L) Back view of IZAdaptive men's studded motorcyle jacket. (R) IZAdaptive skirt and blouse worn seated and standing.
(L) Pieces from Izzy Camilerri's eponymous line. (R) Reproduction of dyed red silver fox coat as worn by Maryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada by Izzy Camilerri.
(L) 19th century shoulder cape by Russel and Allen, one of the several pieces used to historically contextualize IZAdaptive. (R) Close up of IZAdaptive women's motorcycle jacket.
(L) IZAdaptive wedding attire for the seated bride. (R) Front and back view of IZAdaptive women's leather motorcycle jacket.
Izzy Camilleri with her designs.