Q&A with Paris Curator Bernadette Caille

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is kicking off the second installment of its two-part exhibit L’Histoire Idéale de La Mode Contemporaine. The first focused on designers who debuted in the ‘70s and ‘80s (Mugler, YSL, etc.), while the second—opening November 25—will showcase the most definitive collections of the ‘90s and ‘00s. Associate curator Bernadette Caille breaks it down…

How will this exhibit connect with part one?
The principle is the same, to project the most famous fashion shows of each designer. We wanted to show the greatest défilés [runway shows], the most important trends or, simply, poetic moments. However, [each era] is completely different. The 1990s are a period of maturity, the 2000s are forever marked by the gravity of world events, and the new decade values designers who [maintain] their independent vision.

Do you try to express a specifically French, or Parisian, point of view?
To say that there exists a specific Parisian or French point of view in fashion is too reductive. There exists, perhaps, a European vision, which is different from the U.S. vision or the Japanese vision. Across cultures, shifting concepts of beauty have given rise to extraordinary fashions that constrict, pad, minimize, exaggerate, and sublimate various zones of the body.

How is it possible to have enough time to reflect on fashions that are so recent?
It’s possible to show trends, historical influences, and pieces of beautiful artisanal work. The world today seems like an era coming to an end. Tragedies, wars, climate change, ecology are important preoccupations for everyone. Designers seem to understand the urgency and significance of authentic work.

How are garments that have been seen so recently made exciting again?
In showing twenty years of creation, we can discern the “air du temps.” Understanding the fascinating work of Junya Watanabe and showing it alongside the precious work of Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, as well as Martin Margiela, immerses us in a recent past which is interesting to re-examine.

What do you think of fast-fashion collaborations, like Lanvin for H&M? Could you imagine one of those dresses at the Musée des Arts Déco?
A large public can appreciate and wear garments that they could never normally wear. Yes, it’s a commercial process, but it’s an opening to make this closed universe known, and the costume history accessible, and, indeed, entertaining. So, yes, I personally could imagine such dresses at the museum. Why not?