Fashion's most extreme and iconic styles can often be described as "wearable art." Picture the sculptural cocoon-confections of Comme Des Garçons, or Alexander McQueen's impossibly high Armadillo heels—the ones made famous by Lady Gaga. Pieces like these transform the body into a canvas and take fashion from the ordinary to the fantastical. Of course, "wearable" is a relative term, and unlike a canvas, our bodies move and often have to go on public transport. For truly wearable art, we might look beyond nine-inch heels and full-body cocoons to textile artist and hairstylist Brittany Mroczek's new exhibit, Slow Styles in a Fast Styled World.
Recently opened at Rear Storefront gallery in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mroczek's show includes alluringly soft handmade cashmere pants and sweaters in cream and black, felted wool textiles, and drawings. The one-of-a-kind designs feel both familiar and ephemeral, as if they were made from favorite childhood sweaters and blankets. With seams that mimic what Mroczek calls the "seams"—or joints—of the human body, the garments suggest a fluid relationship between our form and clothing. Here, wearable art works with the body, rather than against it.
Across the gallery, viewers find felted wool textiles interwoven with silk, cheesecloth, plastic fencing, and human hair. The fencing appears spine-like under the dense, bulbous wool. Creating these gorgeous pieces requires a slow, drawn-out technique of washing, agitating, and drying raw wool. When the process is complete, the textile is reduced to half its original size. A few of the finished textiles are adorned with recognizable "DRY CLEAN ONLY" tags. Another piece has a tag that reads "EXCLUSIVELY FOR BARNEYS NEW YORK." Both are a sly wink at the viewer, asking how much a designer label changes our appreciation of a garment.
For Mroczek, working with textiles is much like styling hair. "I've always approached hair as a medium," she says. "I've thought of it as a textile in terms of sculpting a hairstyle, and constructing and deconstructing it." The main difference is the pace: Mroczek has worked behind the scenes for designers including Patrik Ervell and Eckhaus Latta, as the lead hairstylist for the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, and on photo shoots for W, Vogue, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Often, these jobs requires executing a vision at breakneck speed.
The drawings included in Slow Styles in a Fast Styled World are made by Mroczek after she finishes styling a show or appointment. Each begins with a head-shaped curve, which Mroczek then fills with shapes and patterns that express how it felt to style a certain head of hair. One, made after styling a Dior show, is filled with delicate flowers; another is filled with a wild orange and red pattern. When asked what inspired the fiery design, Mroczek explains: "Rihanna was backstage."
Ultimately, Mroczek hopes that Slow Styles in a Fast Styled World will act as an antidote to fast fashion, giving the viewer a quieter, more intimate way to consider textiles and designs. As a part of the show, she will be taking orders for custom cashmere garments as well as haircut appointments, which is fortunate: You won't only want to touch this art, you'll want to wear it, too.
Slow Styles in a Fast Styled World is on view through March 9. Find out more at rearstorefront.com.