New York City’s annual Met Gala 2016 always delivers on lavishness, and the attendance of the fashion world’s ‘it’ crowd. For the second year in a row, H&M proudly participated in the most prestigious event of the year – the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit. The theme was “Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” bringing fashion into the future. This year, H&M dressed rising celebrities such as Ciara, Jennifer Hudson and many more.
We interviewed Pernilla Wohlfahrt, H&M Design and Creative Director, to learn about the incredible designs and looks at the Met Gala 2016.
How has it been creating these looks for this year’s Costume Institute Benefit?
It has been the most incredible experience creating these unique looks especially for our guests at the Costume Institute Benefit. Our biggest love at H&M is fashion, and it’s such an honour for me and my design team to work on these pieces, creating looks that reflect both the personality of our guests and the theme of this year’s exhibition.
How did this year’s theme Manus X Machina influence your work?
It’s such a fascinating theme for an exhibition, looking at both traditional and man-made processes in how we produce fashion. It makes lots of very interesting points about what we can do with machines and technology. Often people think that something hand-made is more important in fashion, but actually techniques like laser-cutting can give you equally precise results. It’s been such an interesting theme to think about when we’ve been creating these looks, using processes that are both hand and machine made, often in the same look.
How does the theme affect you as a designer and creative director?
I’ve found it so captivating, because the exhibition is about how garments are made, which is what I think about in my work every day at H&M. It really made me think about what we do, and all of the different processes that we use to create our looks. Often people find technology something that frightens them, but actually this exhibition shows how technical processes help to push fashion forward. I love that this is an exhibition that will make visitors think about the processes of how garments are made.
What’s the difference between designing these H&M red carpet looks and creating collections for H&M?
It’s a very special design process for these Costume Institute Benefit looks, because everything is focused on the guest who’ll be wearing it. Each of the looks has taken months to design and create, reflecting on the personalities and characteristics of each of our guests to create something totally unique. I think what shows in each of the looks is our love of the fun of fashion at H&M. It’s a passion that you can find in everything we create, whether it’s a red carpet look or a fresh new piece that’s available to all our customers around the world.
Can you talk about the different processes you used for the Costume Institute Benefit looks?
There are so many different processes that went into each of the look. There’s hand-embroidery and hand embellishment, hand-sewn sequins and flowers that have been individually cut by hand. Then there’s also laser-cutting, heat transfers and techno mesh panelling. It was so exciting for us to push ourselves and our imaginations to come up with looks that show the different man and machine made techniques that can be used.
Lets talk about each of the looks. What about Ciara’s crystal gown?
Ciara’s dress is both daring and also incredibly intricate. We started with a wide diamond grid made from metal chains that are like leaves on a vine. Then, at certain points on the diamond grid, we attached silver pendants that are embellished with silver and black Swarovski crystals. I love the dramatic choker that sits at the neck, and also how it mixes together the traditional with the futuristic, just like the exhibition. It’s got a real art deco elegance to it, but then it’s also futuristic and sporty, especially with its deep racer cut back.
What about Amber Valletta’s dress?
As well as being one of the world’s most famous models, Amber is also a devoted sustainability campaigner, values that are so important to us at H&M. It was important for us to think about sustainability when we were creating her gown, and to show there’s no compromise on style with more sustainable materials. Her blue custom-made dress is covered in over a 1000 hand-cut organic silk petals and recycled plastic beads, which sit on a silk-taffeta base, with a corset of techno-woven mesh. Then also we have laser cut petals with a heat-transferred reflective film that literally flash when light hits them. I love how this dress brings together man and machine, and also highlights H&M’s commitment to more sustainable materials as part of fashion’s future.
Tell me about Pyper America Smith’s look.
For Pyper’s dress, we really wanted to look at what technology can do. We used laser-cutting to create feathers and fringing from iridescent vinyl, which when they are hand-sewn onto a silk tulle base creates the most incredible effect. When she wears it, it’s like she’s shimmering. The dress is so much fun, a real statement about what you can do with the future of fashion.
What about Jennifer Hudson’s dress?
There’s so much intricate detailing that has gone into Jennifer Hudson’s gown. The bodice is six ply silk that has been hand-embroidered with French knots, rows of bugle beads as well as handmade sequin flowers. This embroidery gradually fades down the body into tier-dropped rows of crystal pleating and hand-gathered tulle.
Can you talk about the men’s looks for Lucky Blue Smith and Teddy Charles?
For our male guests, we wanted to show two different ways for men to dress at such an important event. The tuxedo look we created for Lucky Blue takes eveningwear and gives it a 21st century twist. His tux is cut with strong shoulders and a lean waist, and has Swarovski buttons, as does his white silk shirt. He wore this with some leather pants that have a blue metallic coating, giving his sharp look even more edge. Meanwhile for Teddy, we wanted to show how a modern take on a classic tux can look so strong. It’s a black wool tuxedo with wide silk satin lapels, with a sharp cut that looks so elegant.
Can you see any trends in the looks you’ve created for the Costume Institute Benefit?
The biggest trend is for individuality. Each of our guests is wearing a look that reflects their own personality, and this is something that’s so important for us at H&M. We love that our customers all around the world come to H&M to find pieces to create their own look and explore their personal style. It’s a pleasure and an unforgettable experience for us to think about personal style at such an inspiring level, and to create these looks for the Costume Institute Benefit.
For more information, please visit www.hm.com.