ARRRGH! Monsters of Fashion


2 March 2013

"The modern definition of a monster is something disgusting and repulsive," says Angelos Tsourapas, the curator of ARRRGH! Monsters of Fashion. It is an unusual premise for a fashion show.

Showing at Paris' La Gaîté Lyrique gallery, ARRRGH! Monsters of Fashion explores the phenomenon of character design in fashion and designers' interest in distorting the human form through outlandish costumes and props. Featuring designs by Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Maison Martin Margiela and Craig Green, the exhibition is a celebration of the otherworldly and indefinable.

"We're interested in the definition of "monster" of the ancient Greeks," says Tsourapas, who curated the exhibition in conjunction with Vassilis Zidianakis. The two are members of Atopos CVC, an Athens-based creative group. "The Greeks called a monster anything that could not be explained; even good things, if they couldn’t explain them, were monsters," adds Tsourapas. "We're interested in how designers choose to represent their ideas on the catwalk."

The exhibition is centred on costume pieces from catwalk shows. On display are pieces such as Martin Margiela's dehumanising jewelled masks from his haute couture AW/12 collection and Issey Miyake's Monkey and Teddy Bear outfits from his 2001 A-POC project. The exhibition showed in an earlier form in Athens in 2011 and features the work of 58 designers. It is, says Tsourapas, a reflection of a growing interest in character design in fashion.

"Designers introduce these crazy costumes at the end of shows in an effort to encapsulate something about all of the outfits that preceded them," he says. "You have something big and weird that somehow captures a very pure vision of their fashion universe. It's not necessarily commercial; it's a very visual representation of their work."

One of the focuses of the exhibition is on the British designer Craig Green, who created the visual identity for the show and whose AW/13 show at London Collections Men in January featured models in large, driftwood masks.

"Craig made nice wearable clothes, but then at the end he had these huge masks made from broken fences," says Tsourapas. "It's something impressive to see, but of course it's also for the press: wear something unusual and that's the picture that goes in the magazines.

"But there's also the fact that we now have a generation of designers who grew up with video games and computers, and that graphical element has become a big part of their universe and work. That’s how designers express themselves now. Everyone is trying to make a statement."