Review: Todd Oldham Fashion Exhibition Inspires at The Wexner Center
You can’t talk about ‘90s fashion without talking about Todd Oldham. From 1989 to 1999 the designer’s star burned bright, blazing through the New York fashion scene, leaving a trail of vibrant, imaginative and witty creations in his wake.
If you missed them the first time around, or just want to revel in his inimitable aesthetic once again, you’re in luck. A retrospective of his clothing is on view at The Wexner Center for the Arts now through April 15, 2018.
All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion features more than 70 ensembles that pair garments from various collections to create looks that are new and fresh. Designed by Oldham and inspired by formal French gardens, the exhibition draws extensively from the Todd Oldham Studio archives.
Interestingly, Oldham never had sample sales (as most designers do). At the end of every season, the entire collection was tissue wrapped, boxed and put into the archive.
“We spent so much time on those clothes and the artisans in India spent so much time on them and all the hand dyeing, and I just didn’t want to see people pulling on sleeves at a sample sale or seeing that $10,000 dress in a heap on the floor,” said Oldham.
Constructed with a skill and craftsmanship that put it somewhere between ready-to-wear and proper couture, Oldham’s clothing is hard to categorize but dazzles nonetheless.
“Viewers will be amazed by the sheer audacity of Oldham’s materials, ornamentation, and ‘cheeky’ chic, while at the same time awed by the designer’s exquisite mastery of intricate fabrication and detail,” said Wex Director Sherri Geldin.
From pipe cleaners and freshwater pearls to polyester and custom 24-karat gold-plated buttons, the materials and design details that were used to create Oldham’s garments run the gamut from ordinary to extraordinary. And he found inspiration everywhere — in vintage wallpaper, Pantone color books, Egyptian tomb paintings, even discarded traffic tickets.
Unsurprisingly, Oldham continues to be inspired by a variety of people, places and things, and his passion for creative expression has resulted in furniture, films, photography, 24 books and, yes, clothing– this time, for kids. His children’s craft kit company, Kid Made Modern, recently expanded into childrenswear.
Oldham described it as “our biggest privilege and our biggest obligation, too, because you’re working for children, and children deserve the very best and only perfect efforts and the cleanest possibilities you could possibly offer.”
Oldham has also been a longtime guest lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design. In fact, students in RISD’s Textiles Department created the print on 25 yards of fabric he used to construct the first intricate dress he’s made in years. The beautiful ensemble —a knit top and printed skirt with embroidery and sequins— is included in the exhibition, which originated at RISD.
The concept of sharing knowledge is a common thread through Oldham’s teaching, his kids products, and his retrospective. (The exhibition labels are filled with tidbits about his techniques.)
“The handing off of information is really important. And you can hand it off literally or ambiently, by just allowing someone to look at your work or whatever, but I love the idea of sharing. That feels really, really good to me.”
Tickets for All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion are $8 general admission, $6 for senior citizens, and free for members, college students, and those under 18. Admission is also free with a ticket to any same-day Wexner Center event.
For more information, visit WexArts.org.
All photos courtesy of the RISD Museum.