Phoenix may not seem like a destination for fashion’s avant-gardians, but that’s the point. “Seven,” a show at the Phoenix Art Museum that runs through Nov. 2, showcases the work of seven designers — Antwerp-based Bernhard Willhelm, London’s Preen and Boudicca, Berlin- and Paris-based Bless, Tokyo’s Cosmic Wonder, Los Angeles’ Imitation of Christ and New York’s As Four — selected from different points around the world.
“Most of these designers were born in the Seventies of parents who kept telling them, ‘Be all you can be, you’re special.’ They have a strong sense of individuality,” observes Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion for the museum. “All these designers grew up in an era when there were no strict boundaries among disciplines of fashion, music and the contemporary art world.”
The Surrealist-inspired designers in “Seven,” which owes its name to Seven, the gallery/retail lab in New York, are fascinated with the concept of clothing as art, be it the built-in hanger featured on Cosmic Wonder’s otherwise conventional suit or the recycling of other designers’ clothing that is a hallmark of Imitation of Christ. GABi of New York-based collective As Four, who visited the exhibition, says, “Clothing is more than protection and insulation. You decorate yourself the way you see yourself, so you wear your soul outside your body.”
It’s not all about the outlandish, notes Sewell, adding that many of the looks are wearable. “There’s a certain aesthetic these seven share that was considered of lesser value in the past — unfinished hems, the recycling. What we have here are designers who might not be doing a tremendous business, but they are making an impact through their vision.”