It's arguably in times of unrest that the best art is created and there's no art more practical than that which you can don in everyday life – fashion.
MAD's latest exhibition Counter-Couture, celebrates those who wore their rebellion on their sleeve in the best in of handmade hippie fashion, donned by those who rejected the materialist vortex of the American Dream. Not only is the workmanship alone unbelievably intricate but each piece was sewed, embroidered, quilted or tie-dyed with patriarchal protest in mind – a DIY revolution in it's own right.
Curator Michael Cepress researched for the 15 years to put together the show, traveling all over the country to find and restore the most unique garments and accessories of the period. With the backdrop of the Vietnam war, the struggle for civil rights and the passion for escapism (cc psychedelics), Michael believes the 60s and 70s to be one of the most informative eras for fashion.
"I've had this fascination my whole life about this other place that I myself didn't live in, that I feel connected to. I hit the ground and realized this work is out there in the world so I made it my goal to find it and meet the artists and learn their stories."
The exhibition also highlights the rampant cultural appropriation that occurred during the time, throughout which white people romanticized marginalized and indigenous culture by adopting their traditional dress. Although likely perceived as problematic today, this sartorial expression intended to show solidarity – an expression of political allegiance.
Michael thinks an exhibition that showcases human response to the darkest times in history is the perfect answer to the current political landscape.
"Sometimes we just look at what people make and stop there. But to realized there's a bright soul behind each and every one of these pieces...it makes it real in a time when we need it more than ever. Life is a precious, beautiful thing and we can combat the hard times with fun. We need a lot of color."
The exhibition opens today at the Museum of Art and Design.
Cover image is "Hippie Royalty on the Rocks," Ibiza, 1969. Photo by Karl Ferris, featuring crocheted designs by 100% Birgitta. Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.