The Mind of Charles James

Over the summer I had the opportunity to be in New York and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where there was a show about fashion designer Charles James. I'd actually never heard of him before, but was blown away by his work. The intro to the book accompanying the show (which I purchased, it's available on Amazon and I highly recommend it), describes Charles James as:

The creator of works of sculptural bravura and sophisticated palette, he is revered as one of the most significant couturiers of the twentieth century by fashion students, designers, and historians. James is, however, largely unknown to the wider public.

He worked primarily in the 50's and 60's, with his most famous output being staggeringly sculptural and complex evening dresses. In the show, which was designed by architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro, robotic arms highlighted areas on, around, and inside the garments, matched with photos and animations on LCD panels. This gave an audience a literal and figurative peek under the dress to see the many layers creating the structure, and the intricacies of cutting and sewing that made the forms.

Throughout the show and book were quotes and aphorisms from James, which I really enjoyed. Here are a few:

All creative work begins by doing something with the hands. Creation is simply a problem and design is the way out.
A good design should be like a well made sentence, and it should only express one idea at a time.
Cut in dressmaking is like grammar in a language.
A great designer does not seek acceptance. He challenges popularity, and by the force of his convictions renders popular in the end what the public hates at first sight.
Elegance is not a social distinction but a sensual distinction. The mind combines with the body to exploit its sense, its functions, its appearance.
I have sometimes spent twelve hours working on one seam; utterly entranced and not hungry or tired till finally it has as if of its own will found the precise place where it should be placed.