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Kent State Fashion Museum looks at the future

Legal News Reporter

Published: October 8, 2013

Not all museums are solely repositories of things past. The Kent State University Museum, usually referred to as the “Fashion Museum,” is that, but the young curator corps of that museum is eyes-open to the next wave of technology.

The museum will be showing an exhibit entitled “Shifting Paradigms: Fashion and Technology” from now until Aug. 31, 2014.

The new exhibit, curated by two young professors, Margarita Benitez and Noel Palomo-Lovinski, examines the question, “what is the future of fashion?” The exhibit does so by presenting “examples of clothing, accessories and online business models that utilize or are developing new technologies,” says an exhibit description.

“The exhibit is primarily about young creators (in the fashion industry),” said Jean Druesedow, the museum’s director. Druesedow has been with the museum since 1993, coming over from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The museum itself was founded in the early 1980’s, and officially opened its doors in 1985. The foundational material for the museum originally consisted of about 4,000 costumes and other fashion pieces that were donated from a private collection.

“Some of them are young designers, and some of them are techies. Some are creating the shapes of the clothing with new technologies and some are creating clothes that have electronics in them.”

Among material that falls under the category of “electronic clothing” is a fabric that senses when another person is getting physically closer to the person who is wearing it. The closer those two people get to each other, the more transparent the clothing becomes. It does not work in the opposite fashion—to repel unwanted people. The image of that article of clothing is the image chosen to represent the exhibit.

At the other end of the spectrum, Nike Inc. has supplied a pair of extremely brightly colored footwear.

In between, the exhibit includes the brand-new technology of three-dimensional printing, an exhibit of a manufacturing technique that basically did not exist a year ago, or at least, was not readily available to individuals, said Druesedow.

A three-dimensional printer uses plastic material that is melted and molded from a design, and functions almost like an individual injection mold.

Other articles of clothing in the exhibit change color or otherwise react to touch. There is a futuristic rain jacket that changes color when contacted by water, made of material that is “hydrochromatic.”

Three-dimensional printing also allows articles like a pair of shoes to be individually designed and manufactured at very low cost. Several shoes manufactured in this way are on display.

“Building on demand in ways that can be customized, or not, is one of the real goals of technology as applied to fashion,” said Druesedow.

“The fashion industry is one of the world’s great polluters,” she said, noting that a recent previous exhibit had focused on sustainability ion the fashion industry.

That pollution, she said, comes from both chemical used during the manufacturing process and the tremendous amount of waste generated when large clothing orders go unsold and the clothing needs to be disposed of.

Druesedow said that some of this new technology could be used to bring clothing manufacturing back to smaller shops, particularly to, perhaps, restart clothing manufacturing in the U.S after many years of that industry using overseas labor.

That would not only cut down on waste, but bring more creativity into the industry, she said, as well as providing local jobs.

The museum offers a regular change in its exhibits, as well as other exhibits which are being presented simultaneously with the technology exhibit.

Another show, entitled “Arthur Koby Jewelry: The Creative Eye,” opens in late October.

In addition to the museum’s main collection, other current exhibits include Fashion Timeline: 200 years of Fashion History, and an exhibit of historic Catholic vestments. One writer, who is not Catholic, but who watches “The Borgias,” thinks that that exhibit is itself worth the trip. There is also a glass exhibit and an exhibit dedicated to pleats, both of which run into 2014.

The museum is located on the Kent State University campus in Kent, at 515 Hilltop Dr., which is basically across Lincoln Street from the Starbucks. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Contact:; (330) 672-3450.