The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), designed by architect Zaha Hadid, is the newest and most iconic landmark of Seoul. The Coats! exhibition takes place at the DDP's Art Hall 1, and it opens with the site-specific digital installation by the Korean artist Yiyun Kang. Her work explores the cultivation of relational environments, generating an augmented environment and engendering perceptual ambiguity. For the Coats! exhibition, Kang will explore the space of the dome, turning features of the production process and images from the Max Mara’s historical archive - including the iconic camel fabric - into patterns: a bright, living material that will give a distinctive visual slant to the exhibition’s piazza.
The 1950s: the Founder, Achille Maramotti, and his dream of a coat.
In the 1950s Achille Maramotti had a dream: to take a made-to-measure garment, put it into production and to transform a men’s coat into an iconic piece of clothing for women. His dream was a very modern one for the times and was based on his intuitions as an entrepreneur and businessman; intuitions that drove him to manufacture outerwear and tailleurs for women, “ready and easy” to be worn, and led him to found, in 1951, his company Maramotti Confezioni in Reggio Emilia, Italy. To delve into the life of the Founder by peering through the door of his Studio, is to immerse oneself in his life and, for a moment, to dream his dream.
The 1960s: the creative studio, the coat “for everyone”, the designers and Pop
In the 1960s Max Mara found itself absorbing the visual signals that were emanating from the new fashion capitals in Europe (Paris, London): the company realized that the tastes of the consumers were changing and that they had to acknowledge the growing role of young people as definers of the newest fashion trends. The Creative Studio, strategically placed in the center of the company’s Reggio Emilia headquarters, transformed the sketches and drawings of the most talented designers of the time into products. The Studio is filled with the kaleidoscope of pop images, the explosion of young culture, the atmosphere and the trends in the new fashion capitals.
2010: the fashion show. The runway show from the backstage to the latest trends.
"Lights, strobes, photographs, music, rhythm, the wait and desire, curiosity, the looks emerging on the runway and the excitement of being in the first row. Through eight individual pieces, selected from the latest runway looks, Max Mara produced the ideal fashion show which captured the atmosphere, taste and trends of the first decade of the new millennium. The alluring and glamorous fashions of the decade can also be attributed to the growing role of celebrities who drive the international style of the Max Mara woman. The precious coats from the Collezione Atelier and the Whitney Bag, designed in collaboration with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, further underscore the continued research and evolution of Max Mara."
The 1970s: Colorama, the colorful coat and the art of experimentation.
New shapes, new materials, new colors, new manufacturing processes and new creative input: the pervasive climate of protest of the 1970s generated a completely novel look that coincided with the birth of the Sportmax label in 1969 and with its first experimental fashion show directed by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac in 1976. There was a special environment of experimentation: the creative, and primarily French, designers created a dialogue with the Style office of the company, meeting the needs and guidelines of the production team.
THE FASHION SHOW
The 2000s: the Max Mara women. The coat goes on the road and the female universe.
Max Mara has been a cultivator of change and female empowerment, supporting creativity and contemporary art that, along with the support of women, are all part of Max Mara’s DNA today. Since 2005, the company has advanced the cause of women through the creation of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery; a prize promoted by the Collezione Maramotti which celebrates emerging female artists from the U.K. Since 2006 Max Mara has supported and nurtured the Women In Film association through a dedicated prize, the Max Mara Face of the Future Award®, awarded as a personal recognition to a rising female talent in cinema.
The 1990s: the photographic set, the story of the coat and the perfect image.
The encounter between fashion and the great photographers created images that became the history of Max Mara and were destined to remain forever. Images that showed the quality of the products, the distinctiveness of each coat and the unique interpretation of each woman that wore it. The search for the perfect image became crucial in the Nineties; images that were able to tell the story and unveil the beauty of the minimalist surroundings and the pared down luxury of the Max Mara coats worn by international top models. The focus of Max Mara’s “storytelling” became recounting the story of the product as well as the describing the process used to create the pieces of the collections: thus special catalogues, runway videos, photographs from the backstage as well as Max Mara’s MM magazine, all became the new devices with which the fashion narrative was forever changed.
The 1980s: the icon. The magic of the coat and Italian know-how.
In the decade that fashion across the globe spoke Italian and that Italian designers captured international attention, the French designer, Anne Marie Beretta, sketched a timeless piece: the 101801 Icon Coat, which created the heart and essence of the Max Mara identity. The San Maurizio factory, inaugurated in 1988, revealed the magic and energy of the manufacturing process and the steps required to create the company's statement coats. In the Eighties, the distinctive camel coat became the feminine, cultured and sophisticated uniform of the working woman.
THE MAX MARA WOMEN
Coats! A journey into Max Mara Heritage
Starting November 28th a new edition of Coats! the exhibition dedicated to over 60 years of history of Max
Mara, will open in Seoul, Korea, in the futuristic and multi-functional DDP (Dongadaemun Design Plaza)
designed by Zaha Hadid. After Moscow (2011), Beijing (2009), Tokyo (2007) and Berlin (2006), Coats! is designed once again by Studio MIGLIORE+SERVETTO ARCHITECTS. The exhibition will be shown inside a monumental dome inspired by theutopian architecture of Étienne-Louis Boullée. It will present a completely new overview of the Max Mara Heritage.
This journey plunges visitors right into the heart of the history of the coat and of the brand, winding its
way through seven themed rooms: a series of modern-day wunderkammer, packed with garments, sounds,
memorabilia and interactive features representing the vision that moved Max Mara’s founder, Achille
Maramotti: “to make the ordinary extraordinary”. The intuition that inspired him to turn the masculine coat into
an icon of the womenswear wardrobe is one of the most visionary adventures of the Italian clothing industry.
The exhibition starts from the dream of the perfect coat.
Coats! opens with the site-specific digital installation by the Korean artist Yiyun Kang, curated by renowned
Daehyung Lee. It will explore the space of the dome, turning features of the production process and images
from the Max Mara’s historical archive into patterns; a bright, living material that will give a distinctive visual
slant to the exhibition’s piazza, a route through seven rooms of the Max Mara world. The rooms can be visited
either in chronological order or according to theme, following the emotions, music, shifts in atmospheres,
scenarios and colours that mark the move from one decade to the next.
Each room opens with a set, a sort of theatrical representation, suspended between imagination and reality,
which metaphorically places the focus on a specific theme of Max Mara’s history:
• The founder. Achille Maramotti and the dream of the coat (‘50s)
• Creative study. The democratic coat, designers and pop (‘60s)
• Colorama. The coat in technicolor and the art of experimentation (‘70s)
• The icon. The magic of the coat and Italian know how (‘80s)
• The set. The representation of the coat and the perfect image (‘90s)
• The Max Mara women. The journey of the coat and the female universe (2000)
• The fashion show. Runway glamour and new projects (last decade of 2000)
Over ninety coats are on show in the exhibition, starting from the first ones from the 50s to the more recent
ones that walked the Milan runway, and of course the iconic 101801 style. Beginning from the early days of
dressmaking and its evolution into fashion, the coats show the changes in taste, society and lifestyles that have marked each decade, together with sketches by the designers who have worked with Max Mara (Anne Marie Beretta, Emmanuelle Khanh, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean-Charles de CastelBajac, Narciso Rodriguez, Giambattista Valli and Proenza Schouler). The exhibition features historical magazines, raw materials, advertising campaigns shot by legendary fashion photographers (Richard Avedon, Arthur Elgort, Steven Meisel, Sarah Moon, Max Vadukul, Mario Sorrenti, David Sims and Craig McDean); celebrities portraits and everyday objects (sewing machines, measuring tapes, scissors etc) and artworks that are the fruit of the dialogue between contemporary artists and the founder, avid art collector. This continues today with the Collezione Maramotti.
Featuring fascinating items belonging to the historical archive of the Group the exhibition offers a
reconstruction of the varieties of stories and inventions behind the know how of Max Mara illustrating the
evolution of the product and the design culture underlying each garment. Coats! reveals how the family
business, by engaging with the local area, Reggio Emilia, and with the world, has been able to interpret the
desires of women since 1951 right up to today.
Read the press release
1. Have you ever worked on a fashion project before? / Is this your first work with the fashion world? No I haven’t. / Yes. This is the first time I have worked in the world of fashion.
2. When was your first meeting with the Max Mara Company and how did you react? My first visit to Reggio Emilia was in May, 2017. Before the visit to the Max Mara HQ, Factory, Archive, and Maramotti Collezione, my understanding of the operations of the company was superficial. The visit helped me to not only understand but also genuinely ‘feel’ the philosophy of the company. At the heart of its philosophy, there are people who really appreciate it and try hard to adhere to its values. I found it to be a particularly inspirational experience.
3. Did you know about Max Mara previously? Yes, of course.
4. How did you feel during the visit to the Max Mara archives in Reggio Emilia? I truly admire Max Mara’s respect for their heritage and values and the effort that has been put in to support them. While I was working at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) as a resident artist, something I will never forget was my visit to their archive and storage facilities. I realized that the overall quality of the museum is reflected by the perfect maintenance of its archive collections and a profound respect of its history. I felt the same way when I visited Reggio Emilia.I was deeply impressed by the focus on its essence, and I believe that it is rooted in the company’s archive.
5. What do you think about fashion? How do you deal with it? By definition, fashion is a trend. It is a style in dress, ornament, or manners of behavior. To me, fashion is not just a fast-changing trend, but a means of expressing one’s character and feelings that can also reflect the specificities of an occasion. I also believe that the choice of fashion relates to a fundamental understanding of my own physical body.
6. It is clear that art influences fashion. Do you think that fashion influences art too? As I have just pointed out, fashion is a trend; it is a movement, a tendency, and an inclination that is closely related to desire. I consider such trends that originate from desire to be also very important in art. Nowadays, I feel that fashion is not only about garments but also about creativity and lifestyle as a whole. For example, Max Mara manifests its identity not only through their fashion items, but also through their archive, Maramotti Collezione, and the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. In this way, fashion and art can cohabit by sharing influences and supporting each other.
7. Where do you think that fashion and art meet? I certainly believe that they coincide in this exhibition! To continue from the previous question, I feel that this exhibition is one kind of Max Mara’s holistic manifestations. It is not only about the history of Max Mara’s clothes but also about its heritage and a deep respect for art. I believe that this exhibition will generate a dynamic experience that can connect the company with its audience through the contemporary artwork.
8. How do you think it is possible to combine your language with the language of fashion? First of all, I don’t think that I completely comprehend the language of fashion. However, it seems to me that, at least in the case of Max Mara, the fundamental language of my work and that of fashion have a great deal in common. In Max Mara’s consistent philosophy and respect for its heritage, I find a craftsmanship that is not volatile. Moreover, Max Mara’s minimal and modernistic aesthetic style coincides with my own visual language. I appreciate that my work and Max Mara’s designs avoid superfluousness and redundancy; both are faithful to the essence, in such a way that people often feel that they are more poetic than decorative.
9. What is the difference between an art production and a fashion one? Both are actually quite similar. To produce works of art and fashion requires effort, perfection, and collaboration on many levels. However, as art is not always produced with a sale in mind, the art-making is sometimes very spontaneous and intuitive. I suppose that the objective of making a sale draws an essential distinction between art and fashion. I think that art has relatively more freedom than fashion in terms of developing its concepts, visualization, and approaching its audience.
10. What are the starting points and inspiration behind your artworks? Surface and depth are vitally important, as is desire. Fabric wraps and constructs the volume of the human body. When aesthetics intervenes, it becomes a fashion. Fashion is closely related to desire. Max Mara’s fashion is not superficial but deep. Dome is not just a surface, it is simultaneously an environment. This is a deep, volumetric dimension. These are my starting points and they form the key concepts of this work.
11. What relationship is there between your art and Korean culture? Has Korean culture influenced your artwork? I don’t think that Korean heritage has significantly influenced my work on a surface level. Rather, the influences of Korean culture exist on a subconscious level. My installations are mostly sitespecific, so I’m quite adaptable to given conditions and flexible when it comes to mixing my language into the existing structure in order to create a new experience. Similarly, contemporary Korean culture also has a high degree of adaptability and remixability. For example, let’s take a look at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) which is the venue of the COAT exhibition. Within 5 minutes of the site, you can see Dongdaemoon (a.k.a Heunginjimun), a prominent Korean historical landmark built in the 14th century, Dongdaemoon market, a large commercial district comprising of traditional markets and shopping centers, and the DDP itself, a futuristic complex designed by Zaha Hadid. As such, all of these conflicting values have somehow harmoniously converged into contemporary Korean culture. We’re good at blending diverse qualities in order to create a new environment, and I think this distinctive feature of Korean culture intuitively affects my work.
12. Space is very important for your work. How has the element of the dome conditioned your project? The dome has been a very challenging canvas for me. Moreover, the dome at the COAT exhibition is 20 meters in diameter. It is not an object, but rather an environment that is completely immersive, absorptive even. Our perception of and engagement in this environment is considerably different to that of other types of screens. Therefore, I firstly needed to investigate how the dome structure is conceptually and practically different so I could produce a video that is interconnected with the dome structure. In this way, the narrative of my projection could be developed with careful consideration of its environment; it is an immersive dome.
13. What kind of audience engagement are you looking for with your artworks? The architect Ico and I have critically focused on the pathway of this exhibition, which is openstructured. Members of the audience can navigate and create their own itinerary within this environment. Thus, my projections on the dome also coincide with the concept of the pathway. My projection neither takes a cinematic linear narrative nor does it have a definite start and end point. Rather, it flows between the surface of the dome and the volume of the environment in a constant loop. As a result, the audience can stay as long as they want, either hovering or immersing themselves. I have attempted to invite viewers to take their own journey between the Wunderkammer rooms and the dome space, between object and environment, and between surface and depth.
by Daehyung Lee (Curator, Korean Pavilion, Venice Biennale - Art Director, Hyundai Motor Company)
The work of art, created by the London based Korean artist Yiyun Kang in collaboration with MaxMara, one of the world’s premier fashion brands, creates a sublime landscape showcasing the trajectories of moving images at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Seoul. Kang is a master of illusions (but not of deceptions, as I will soon explain). She uses the technology of spatial projection mapping to transform space and existing architectural structures in a manner that collapses the opposition between concepts - materiality/immateriality, reality/virtuality, presence/absence, analog/digital, body/machine, fact/fiction, history/myth - which are central to our perceptual orientation, epistemic ordering of the world, and anchoring of subjectivity.
For her work Deep Surface (an oxymoron that undoes another key dichotomy), Kang uses the same technology to project images onto the internal surface of a dome. The projection consists of dancers moving and pressing their bodies against a white screen, which stretches and puckers with their movements. As a result, the mixture of the dome structure and Kang’s digital moving images has conceived new modes of spectatorship that erodes both the boundaries between illusion and reality, and the disparities between individual voyeuristic experiences and interpersonal modes of observation. As the work’s title emphasizes, the dancers only become visible through an illusory surface but simultaneously seem to exist in a depth or space beyond our vision—in a liminal place between the image and the dome that cannot possibly exist. The outlines of the dancers’ faces and body parts appear fleetingly but with a force that begs for connection. The effect is of a sculpture in motion reminiscent of Michelangelo’s unfinished marble sculptures in which deceivingly life-like figures seem to emerge, as if out of their own volition, from inanimate blocks of rock.
There is a clear correspondence between Kang’s dome and Plato’s cave as enclosed spaces. In
addition, Kang’s dancers immediately echo Plato’s dancing shadows. Yet Deep Surface also
distinguishes itself from Plato’s allegory in an important way.
Indeed, while Plato’s cave underscored people’s trust in their perceptions and unquestioning adherence to a body of knowledge constructed on the aforementioned perceptions, Kang’s work has the opposite effect.
Because Kang’s projections completely dissolve the solidity of the dome and disrupt our sense of space and order and, by extension, our cognitive centering, Deep Surface injects us with an intense sense of bodily experience triggered by highly immersive environments. We are mesmerized and even absorbed by the work’s trompe l’oeil effects and yet critically aware of their unattainable illusory nature. Trapped behind the cloth, the dancers—who cannot see us or our world beyond the white screen—become clear metaphors of our own confinement within our always finite and imperfect worldview. In this manner, Deep Surface places its dancers in the same position as Plato’s prisoners, which in turn allows us, the audience, to experience a revelatory Brechtian distancing or estrangement effect.
Deep Surface also creates an analogy between the white screen and its projected footage of camel cloth, the signature material of the luxury fashion brand Max Mara. Of course, fashion has an intimate relationship to the human body and can act as a radical form of self-expression. The work, for instance, creates a parallel between the expressive movements of the dancers and the flowing folds of the projected camel cloth. However, the white screen in Deep Surface is the medium through which we obtain an oxymoronic context that highlights the impossibility of understanding the notion of ‘depth’ in isolation from that of ‘surface’ and vice versa. The work thus suggests that fashion, rather than being a mere trend or a form of spectacle as if often assumed, can be a medium through which we discover new realities and new subject positions. Indeed, the rest of the chambers in the installations - the wonder cabinets - offer us an encyclopedic understanding of Max Mara, while narrating history through its creation. Through these rooms, we can thus shift our view of history, fashion, and MaxMara in a manner that is analogous to the discoveries triggered by the rest of Kang’s installation.