Hally McGehean’s Laminated Luxe

McGehean’s Pop couture is crafted not from materials indiscernible to the average person but from the vibrant commercial images that swirl around us endlessly.

In Features by Victor P. Corona 2011-09-20 print

Jocelyn Saldana

As the Highline glowed in the sunshine of a Fashion Week afternoon, the streets of the Meatpacking District bustled with photographers aiming massive lenses at the thinnest of models and hulking black SUVs idling near velvet-roped sidewalks. A crowd slowly gathered on the Highline in anticipation of Hally McGehean’s outdoor display of dresses made from laminated images of things like lipsticks, guns, and watches. The ginger-haired designer and her cortege of plastic and flesh soon arrived, led by Jocelyn Saldana, a beautiful young actress and spirited nightlife persona. Behind her, Rhyan Hamilton wore a McGehean creation composed of images of Lady Gaga. Known as the Monsters Ballgown, the outfit consists of a skirt and crown made entirely of Gaga photos. The final model in the retinue was the stunning Darian Darling, whose dress was made from images of strutting runway models doing exactly what she was doing at that very moment. I approached and congratulated McGehean, who wore one of her own garments. She then hurried off to review the models’ progress, merrily pulling laminated business cards off her dress and handing them to tourists who seemed rather bewildered but satisfied that they had somehow taken part in the Fashion Week revelry.

When viewing McGehean’s constructions from a design perspective, a salient contrast exists between the time that she must invest in culling and assembling photos and the rapid blur with which these images race past us in TV commercials, billboards, and web and print ads. McGehean’s work is also in line with other artists and designers who have served as conceptual bridges between Pop art and fashion, from Warhol’s own collaborations with Sarah Dalton on a dress made of prints of “FRAGILE” shipping labels to contemporary designs by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

The McGehean collection on the HighlineAs one reviewer of McGehean’s collection states, “In a glamorous Warholian vein, many pieces revel in their appropriation, with some dresses explicitly entitled ‘Plagiarism,’ as the images exist relatively unaltered yet decontextualized hanging from the human frame.” Given the designer’s still growing position in this Pop lineage, it was rather fitting that Darian Darling wore a McGehean dress made from laminated ostrich feather photos to a Standard party held in honor of Lady Gaga, who is perhaps Warhol’s greatest inheritor. In video footage of the event, the pop queen joyfully twirls her teal hair while Darling dances alongside her, the ivory scale-like components of her plastic dress swaying with her.

Darian Darling

Overall, the McGehean collection is an impressive array of dresses that serves as a kind of inventory of images that currently grip the public gaze, just as the Pop art of the 1960s is a documentation of the commercial fixations of its age. Another quality is the fact that McGehean’s models wear what is essentially an assemblage of images that usually demand closer contemplation, like magazine ads and photo spreads. Each model thereby becomes a kind of exhibition on legs. At a Soho showcase of the collection, the video artist Derek Mega remarked, “McGehean took a rolling pin to fashion, turning the model into the gallery in a world of provocative and whimsical meta-art.” Such whimsy was undoubtedly in the air during McGehean’s Highline show. As the parade of plastic garments strutted past people catching the last of summer’s sun rays, the power of Pop was in evidence. The couture was crafted not from materials indiscernible to the average person but from the vibrant images that swirl around us endlessly.

Victor P. Corona

Victor P. Corona. Victor P. Corona, Ph.D., (http://victorpcorona.com) is a sociologist at Columbia University, where he is finishing a book about New York nightlife. He lives in Manhattan. » See other writings

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