NEW YORK — Looking to bring Silicon Valley together with Hudson Valley, Li Edelkoort is forging ahead with plans for the first New York Textile Month in September.
More than a citywide, multi-institutional effort meant to inform the public about the depth and advancement in textiles, the event signals a more forward way of thinking about the sector that is geared toward increased production. The New School’s Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum have partnered for New York Textile Month. At a press event Monday, trend forecaster Edelkoort, who joined The New School as Dean of Hybrid Studies last fall, said, “The reason we wanted to do this between museums and education is to make the general public more au courant and understanding of what textiles are.”
Noting how The Met’s new “Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology” exhibition “entirely about making” is attracting large crowds, Edelkoort said, “It’s not an old-fashion crowd but all sorts of people who are interested in this process. In society, there is a real new interest in materialization, possibly as the counterbalance of the virtual world. In philosophy, there is actually a very important strain mostly from Eastern Europe, called New Materialism, [based on the belief] that matter is a very important component of life.”
This fall The New School will open a 35,000-square-foot “making center” at its West 13th Street location where designers from an array of disciplines will work together to develop futuristic prototypes that are geared to bolster local and international production. With the U.S.’ resurgence in craft and high-tech production, smart textiles will be able to be produced closer to major city centers, Edelkoort said. Interestingly, the health care industry is generating the most innovation for textiles, as evidenced by a surgical mesh netting for the heart and a lacelike biodegradable bandage. She added, “In the U.S., there is a big, big expectancy that engineered fibers will almost be like an Internet with a great deal of research under way in several universities, in the government and with the U.S. Army to work with more revolutionary materials.”
Rem Koolhaas’ partner Petra Blaisse is working on a project to decompose solar cells so that they become hard matter that can be placed in curtains, said Edelkoort, adding, “This is where the future seems to be going — soften the techno debate and embed smart technology in something human.”
At Monday’s event, Parsons School of Design’s executive dean Joel Towers said the school is developing a master’s program for textiles. Andrew Rosen, a champion of local production and advancements in manufacturing, will deliver the Marvin Traub lecture at Parsons in September and the school’s MFA Fashion Design and Society will show at Milk Studios during NYFW.
Textile Month will coincide with New York Fashion Week in September, with the intent of making it a yearly gathering. In addition to the Cooper Hewitt’s “Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse” and the Museum of Art & Design’s “Crochet Coral Reef,” the Neue Galerie’s upcoming fall exhibition will feature three Klimt-inspired garments designed by Han Feng. The High Line will have an outdoor screening of a film about textiles, Saks Fifth Avenue will lead a select group of media on a textiles-focused tour of its flagship and the Brooklyn Museum is creating an app to lead visitors to textiles in its collection.
The Brooklyn Museum recently discovered 15 boxes in it archives of textiles printed in New York City in the Twenties and Thirties including some from Elsa Schiaparelli, who made them “on the side to make some money,” Edelkoort said. To try to help find a benefactor for this collection, the New York Textile Month site will feature a different sample from the collection each day of the month — in order to say, “This happened in New York – Let’s make it happen again.”