Olivier Theyskens: In Praesentia, currently on display at The Museum for Lace and Fashion in Calais, France, offers an enticing look into the historic, yet ever relevant relationship between textile manufacturing and fashion design. Visitors are invited to learn about the centuries-old lace industry through an exquisite display of contemporary fashion and historic textiles, garments and objects from the museum’s unique collection. Now a decade old, the institution was first conceived in 2009 to honour the longstanding tradition in northern France of fine lace manufacturing.
The show engages in a unique dialogue between the present, evidenced in Theyskens’ work, and the past, seen in the pieces on view from the museum’s extensive archives. Curator Lydia Kamitsis combed through 20 years of Theyskens’ work, extracting recurrent ideas including the bias cut, the dress train and of course, the lace itself. Reciprocally, Theyskens was given unlimited access to the museum’s extensive dress and textile collection to find pieces that would sit seamlessly with his designs.
A dark romance felt in Theyskens' designs is felt across the show. While lace manufacturing may conjure images of homespun handicraft, in actuality the process involves colossal industrial machinery, grimy from the graphite lubricant required to operate it. Out of this loud and dirty process comes lace, pristinely refined, as fragile as a spider’s web. Theyskens summarises, 'it is a very beautiful and intriguing world.'
Shedding light on a long lineage of people whose families have manufactured lace, the show captures the breadth of the industry. These people are felt among the objects displayed, giving the show its title In Praesentia, which means 'presence' in Latin. As Theyskens says, 'there is a feeling of the people behind all of this and their world.'
The exhibition is on view from 15 June 2019 – 5 January 2020.