Fashion V Sport

Walker Art Gallery (13th February - 31st May 2009)

Reviewed by Paul Cassidy

This new exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery chronicles fashion's foray into the seemingly disjointed world of sport. From the humble beginnings of design houses adoptions and subsequent adaptations of the grey sweat suit to the manic collections of devotees, this exhibition not only displays but accurately details the continuing relationship between fashion and sport.

Upon entering the gallery the visitor is guided neatly through four sub-sections of the floor space which are (almost cryptically) entitled; ‘Dare’, ‘Display’, ‘Play’ and ‘Desire’. Each section offers its own interpretation of the fusion of fashion and sport.

The first section, ‘Dare’, is devoted to the technological innovations afforded by fashion and sport’s embrace, giving detailed explanations of the creation of garments and information regarding fashion's contribution to the construction of such pieces. Standout items here come from up-and-coming talent Aitor Throup and the highly revered Japanese label Visvim.

The second section, entitled ‘Display’, charts the progression of fashion's adoption of sportswear through the vessel of typical uniform-like items such as the grey sweat suit and Converse shoes. The message here is that almost anything can be adapted and customised in order to create individuality - pieces by Vivienne Westwood and Bernhard Willhelm are a testament to this.

The third section of the exhibition, ‘Play’, serves to provide examples of the exaggeration and reinvention of sportswear at the hands of fashion designers. The total distortion of garments by cult labels such as Material Boy and Cassette Playa, through the use of pattern and colour, is nothing short of breathtaking in its visual bombardment.

The final section, ‘Desire’, pays homage to the often delirious consumption of fashion in contemporary culture, raising issues regarding the obsessive behaviours of collectors and the preference of style over function - the section is a devotion to aesthetics gone mad. On show here are all manner of bizarre pieces - from a fishing rod set lent the luxurious hand of Chanel, to limited edition crocodile-skin trainers by Nike.

Overall the exhibition provides a well researched glimpse into the world of fashion and sport, with some very well chosen pieces from key designers and labels.

Education and inspirational, this exhibition surprised me in its content, especially its use of pieces by current hot topic Aitor Throup.

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