The Aran Jumper‘I think it’s one of those items we ended up turning into humble masterpiece’

As heard on arena

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What makes an item of clothing iconic?

‘Is fashion modern?’ is a new exhibition that will take place in New York next month that includes an array of iconic typologies over the past century including the great symbol of Irish style, The Aran Geansaí. Michelle Millar Fisher who is one of the curators from MoMa New York exhibition, joined Sean Rocks on Arena to tell him all about the exhibition and to describe the title.

“I’d say it’s an open ended question. So fashion is definitely modern in a sense that it embodies both timelessness and temporality. We have 111 different typologies, as we say they really range. They will embody a little bit of both of those things so, they are in some ways connected to modernity.”

Michele told Sean that she had done all the fighting for the Aran Jumper to be on display as it was something that was very close to heart seeing as she grew up in Scotland and has many of them, although has never knitted one herself.

“Everybody on the curatorial team loved it but it does hold a very special place in my heart. The Arann Islands is certainly the whirl spring and the genesis in the most inconsequential way of the Aran Jumper, or the Geansaí I guess as you’d call it. I think it’s very international. I think it’s one of those items we ended up turning into a humble masterpiece. It’s not necessarily the most expensive on the list but it’s definitely a design and a fashion icon I think from the mid-century onwards.”  

Michele said that The Aran Sweater was on the Arann Islands for centuries before Muriel Gahan, a craft and design expert and enthusiast, popularised it into a fashionable piece. She told Seán that the film industry had also contributed to its fame.

“I think actually as many fashion items have been popularised, it was also popularised through film through actresses and actors. Steve McQueen, there’s an iconic shot of him in the Thomas Crown Affair for example and he’s wearing the Aran jersey. Ruth Kelly wore one too so these aspirational figures took it on as part of the lexicon of mid-century fashion. That very, very quickly made sure that people saw it and wanted to own one and wear one too.”

‘Is fashion modern?’ opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on the 1st of October

To listen back to the full interview from Arena, click here.


© The Listener 2017

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