Florence Müller guest-curated Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective in 2012. In 2015, she joined the museum as the Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Curator of Fashion. Below is a Q&A we conducted with Müller before Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s (on view through May 28, 2017, included with general admission). Learn more in the Wall Street Journal, 5280 Magazine, and The Denver Post.
– Florence Müller
Textile and fashion generate a silent exchange between people. Without speaking, a dialogue is created with our clothes and the people we meet in everyday life.
Q: Why do you think fashion merits attention at a museum?
A: Fashion has a place in a museum because it's one of the primary forms of human expression. Textiles were one of the first forms of writing by using threads in combination to create a piece of cloth. It's also a way of defining ourselves; to create a message; to play a role in society. One can constantly reinvent their identity as a piece of art.
Q: What’s one thing that might surprise people about a fashion curator?
A: The surprise is that there are rules and restrictions that are very specific to textile and fashion; the fragility of these objects and the fact that they are a living medium that is always evolving; the difficulty of keeping up with the mass of documents produced every day through fashion magazines and online.
To exhibit fashion is a challenge because the garments do not have a stable shape. The shape of the body has to be created for the exhibition (using a polyester felt called Fosshape®). But, there is always a missing element, which is the living body. The fashion exhibition, for this reason, is one of most difficult to produce. (Watch video below and this video with a textile conservator to learn more.)
The precision of dating fashion can also be a challenge even though often times, one can date a painting with great accuracy simply by the costume represented in the painting. The creation of fashion is very much linked with time in that it is produced and published according to an annual schedule based on the seasons and, these days, it is accelerated to even every month. Fashion is like life—always in movement.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece in the textile collection?
A: I love a scarf by Raymond Duncan from the 1920s. It's a very precious and rare piece because Raymond Duncan, the brother of Isadora Duncan, is not widely known as an artist. I especially love it because it expresses the search for a new life inspired by ancient Greece. You feel the strong poetry and imagination of this man lost in his thoughts of pure beauty. (This scarf is on view in Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art through October 2 in the Hamilton Building.)
Q: Moving from Paris to Denver must be quite a change. Or is it? What’s the biggest difference?
A: One of the big differences is the space and the light. From Denver, the streets of Paris look narrow and overcrowded. Paris is a gray city because of the Haussmanian architecture and the rain! From Paris, Denver seems to have no limits; the sky is gigantic; the light intense. There is a strong feeling of freedom with the unlimited scale of the landscape—one can feel small in the immensity of the world. And you don't have as much temptation to consume at every street corner, which is better in a world of consumption.