You know I'd be pretty keen to see an exhibition dedicated to t-shirts, whatever the situation. T-shirts are my thing. But when it's in London's Fashion and Textile Museum, and it features two Lost Shapes designs, then it's hands-down unmissable. Even TimeOut included it in their 8 museum exhibitions we can't wait to see in 2018, and they're not biased like I am!
T-shirt: Cult - Culture - Subversion launched last Thursday, 'charting the history, culture and subversion of the most affordable and popular item of clothing on the planet'.
Featuring big names in fashion like Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett, and iconic band and political t-shirts from the last few decades and new digital technology, being picked out for the exhibition felt a bit like suddenly being allowed to play with the big boys. And along with the great reassurance that not only did others GET the designs, they valued them too (the two designs featured were my favourites from last year, but at the design stage I couldn't work out whether people would love them like I did), came the inevitable Imposter Syndrome - Did they mean to ask me? Do they know I'm not a real fashion designer?
Sometimes (okay, this might be the only time) the best way to get over yourself is just to put it out there and wear it on a t-shirt. So a couple of days before the private view I printed myself my new favourite tee. It worked pretty well in the first class train carriage too.
Carefully and imaginatively curated by the Fashion and Textile Museum in partnership with the Barnsley Civic, the exhibition is less a systematic history of the t-shirt than a rowdy celebration of its many forms. Although a timeline t-shirt rail gives a potted history - did you know that US underwear makers Hanes started producing the t-shirt in 1935, but they were a commercial failure? - it is the thematic organisation that makes it really interesting. Media coverage is inevitably focusing on the big names, with a whole slot in Newsnight interviewing Katharine Hamnett and visiting the exhibition, but I loved the democracy of the display. Indie designers like Lost Shapes are displayed alongside work from the Vivienne Westwood collection, and mass-produced commercial pieces such as the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt. And the heat-sensitive Global Hypercolor t-shirt from the early 90s, of course - that would have been a serious omission...
The Over Optimistic t-shirt is displayed in the environmental section, amongst t-shirts and placards from Vivienne Westwood's Climate Revolution campaign and 'Single Use Plastic is Never Fantastic' slogan tees from Henry Holland. The power of the protest slogan forms a key part of the exhibition's political section, and especially Katharine Hamnett's 'Demand a Second Referendum' themed t-shirts and speech. "If you want to get the message out there, you should print it in giant letters on a T-shirt."
The Last Words section - 'the T-shirt's most resounding arguments and unanswerable questions', finishes by sandwiching 'We're All Doomed' between Vivienne Westwood's 'Up Green Europe' and Philip Normal's 'What Other People Think Of You Is None Of Your Business' in a bizarrely eclectic collections of statements.
You need to see the exhibition yourself if you're any kind of t-shirt fan, but my last words are a quote from curator Jenna Rossi-Camus, 'Wearing t-shirts is an intervention in public space - choose well and wisely!'.
Irregular musings and pretty pictures from the heart of LOST SHAPES.