Ronaldus Shamask's Fashion-Filled Exhibit
by christina pellegrini
Cello Jacket, 1981, by Ronaldus Shamask, has a form that follows the instrument’s curve.
Until Ronaldus Shamask’s recent reentry into the runway world with a Spring 2012 show after an almost 10-year hiatus, his designs hung quietly on the racks at Bergdorf Goodman, under the radar of most fashion news authorities. An oft-overlooked fixture in American fashion design, Shamask’s architectural vision and minimalist aesthetic have sustained his design philosophy over the past three decades. Philadelphia will host a retrospective of Shamask’s influential pieces in the exhibition "Ronaldus Shamask: Form, Fashion, Reflection" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“I think what struck me the first time I looked at this collection was the whole integrated aesthetic of the way the body moves and [Shamask’s use of] geometry— that a rigorous geometric aesthetic could also work on the body,” says Dilys Blum, the Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland senior curator of costume and textiles at the museum. “Intellectually, I find he is a really interesting designer.”
Drawing from Shamask’s architectural background, the show features sketches and pieces evocative of the American designer’s role in charting the course of contemporary fashion. Many are representative of his expert stitching skills, which often involve minimal seams and a flow that naturally complements the human form. Among his most iconic creations on view, visitors will find works like the Pleated Dress With Handbag Jacket that portray Shamask’s attention to structural integrity, as well as several origami-style pieces that draw from Japanese design. A series of dance-inspired gowns, especially the Mondrian Meets Superman Dress, represent Shamask’s masterful draping techniques. And finally, the retrospective showcases Shamask’s most recognized trademark design, the signature snaking seam of Spiral Jacket—a stitch that became a ubiquitous fashion statement of outerwear in the 1980s.
These career milestones are significant for both fans of Shamask and fashion enthusiasts who are unfamiliar with his work, according to Blum. “It’s relevant to be aware of who the pioneers were, as fashion gets rewritten,” says Blum. “Shamask ties all these things together.... You see the way his clothing fits; it is absolutely beautiful. Just the way it moves, the way he is able to put color around the body. That is an enormous, real talent.” "Ronaldus Shamask: Form, Fashion, Reflection" is on view through March 10 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-763-8100
photography by harlan kayden