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Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), Wedding ensemble (back view), autumn-winter 2014–15 haute couture. Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

NEW YORKThe Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute spring 2016 exhibition, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, on view from May 5 through August 14, and presented in the Museum’s Robert Lehman Wing explores how designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.

Fashion and technology are inextricably connected, more so now than ever before,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Met. “It is therefore timely to examine the roles that the handmade and the machine-made have played in the creative process.  This exhibition proposes a new view in which the hand and the machine, often presented as oppositional, are mutual and equal protagonists.”

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Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883–1971) Suit, 1963–68 haute couture. French Wool, silk, metal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Lyn Revson, 1975 (1975.53.7a–e). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “Manus x Machina challenges the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy and proposes a new paradigm germane to our age of technology.”

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, said, “Both the automated and handcrafted process require similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise. There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it’s the amount of care put into the craftsmanship, whether it’s machine-made or handmade, that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary.”

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Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), Ensemble, autumn-winter 2015–16 haute couture. Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Manus x Machina features more than 170 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from the early 1900s to the present. The exhibition addresses the founding of the haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of industrialization and mass production. It explores this ongoing dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process, and questions this relationship and the significance of the long-held distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear.

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Yves Saint Laurent (French, 1936–2008) Evening dress, autumn-winter 1969–70 haute couture. French Silk, bird-of-paradise feathers. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, 1983 (1983.619.1a, b). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

The Robert Lehman Wing galleries, on the Museum’s first floor and ground level, have been transformed into a building-within-a-building using white scrims. The space houses a series of case studies in which haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles are decoded to reveal their hand/machine DNA. A 2014 haute couture wedding dress by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel with a 20-foot train occupies a central cocoon, with details of its embroidery projected onto the domed ceiling. The scuba knit ensemble, one of the inspirations for the exhibition, stands as a superlative example of the confluence between the handmade and the machine-made–the pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones.

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Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984), Dress, autumn-winter 2013–14 haute couture. Dutch Silicone, cotton. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015 (2016.14). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

The exhibition is structured around the traditional métiers of the haute couture. The first floor unfolds as a series of alcoves, examining the petites mains workshops of embroidery, featherwork, and artificial flowers. The ground floor space is arranged as an enfilade, examining pleating, lacework, and leatherwork. A room dedicated to toiles and the ateliers of tailoring (tailleur) and dressmaking (flou)—the traditional division of a maison de couture—anchors the ground-floor gallery. On both floors, traditional hand techniques are discussed alongside innovative technologies such as 3-D printing, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding.

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Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984), Ensemble, spring-summer 2010 haute couture. Dutch Polyamide, acrylic, leather. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015 (2016.16a, b). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

Designers in the exhibition include Cristobal Balenciaga, Boué Soeurs, Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Pierre Cardin, Hussein Chalayan, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino), André Courrèges, Giles Deacon, Christian Dior, Alber Elbaz (Lanvin), Mariano Fortuny, John Galliano (Christian Dior, Maison Margiela), Jean Paul Gaultier, Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton), Hubert de Givenchy, Madame Grès, Halston, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Iris van Herpen, Marc Jacobs (Louis Vuitton), Charles James, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), Junko Koshino, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Helmut Lang, Louise Boulanger, Mary McFadden, Alexander McQueen (Givenchy), Issey Miyake, Noir Kei Ninomiya (Comme des Garçons), Norman Norell, Jean Patou, Miuccia Prada, Paul Poiret, Gareth Pugh, Paco Rabanne, Noa Raviv, Yves Saint Laurent (Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent), Raf Simons (Christian Dior), Maiko Takeda, Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy), threeASFOUR, Madeleine Vionnet, Catherine Wales, Junya Watanabe (Comme des Garçons), Yohji Yamamoto, and others.

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Raf Simons (Belgian, born 1968) for House of Dior (French, founded 1947), Ensemble, spring-summer 2015 haute couture. Courtesy of Christian Dior Haute Couture. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Manus x Machina is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. Shohei Shigematsu, Director of OMA New York, led the exhibition design in collaboration with The Met’s Design Department. OMA New York also led the concept design for The Costume Institute Benefit with Raul Avila producing the gala décor for the 10th consecutive year.

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Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938) for Miyake Design Studio (Japanese, founded 1970), "Flying Saucer" dress, spring-summer 1994. Courtesy of The Miyake Issey Foundation. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

A book, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, by Andrew Bolton features interviews with Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Hussein Chalayan, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino), Nicolas Ghesquière (Louis Vuitton), Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (Proenza Schouler), Iris van Herpen, Christopher Kane, Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Miuccia Prada, and Gareth Pugh. The publication accompanies the exhibition and is illustrated with new photography by Nicholas Alan Cope. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the $50 edition has 248 pages and 178 color illustrations. A limited edition of 600 copies, available only at The Met, comes in a hand numbered, laser cut, high-density polyethylene box that contains a specially bound volume for $295. An exclusive color print showing 600 images of ensembles featured in the publication is included.

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Christian Dior (French, 1905–1957) "Vilmorin" dress, spring-summer 1952 haute couture. French Silk, nylon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1955 (C.I.55.76.20a–g). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

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Christopher Kane (British, born 1982), Dress, spring-summer 2014. Courtesy of Christopher Kane. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

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Hussein Chalayan (British, born Cyprus, 1970), "Kaikoku" floating dress, autumn-winter 2011–12. Courtesy of Swarovski. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

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Nicolas Ghesquière (French, born 1971) for House of Balenciaga (French, founded 1937), Dress, spring-summer 2003. Courtesy of Balenciaga Archives, Paris. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

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Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984), Dress, spring-summer 2012 haute couture. Courtesy of Iris van Herpen. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

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Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), Wedding ensemble, autumn-winter 2005–6 haute couture. Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine. Collection Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Case Study. Wedding ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), autumn/winter 2014–15 haute couture, back view; Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery Case Study.  “L’Eléphant Blanc”, Evening Dress, Yves Saint Laurent (French, 1936–2008) for House of Dior (French, founded 1947) , spring-summer 1958, haute couture; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1977 (1977.329.5a, b) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Artificial Flowers Case Study. Wedding Ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), autumn/winter 2005–6 haute couture, back view; Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery Case Study.  Dress, Yves Saint Laurent (French, 1936–2008), Spring-Summer 1983 Haute Couture; Courtesy of Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Artificial Flowers © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Embroidery © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Tailleur and Flou © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Upper Level Gallery View: Featherwork © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.