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Retrospective of Todd Oldham's exuberantly styled and deliriously embellished fashion opens at the Wex
All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion at the RISD Museum April 8th through September 11th, 2016. Courtesy of the RISD Museum, Providence, RI.

COLUMBUS, OH.- For winter 2018, much of the Wexner Center for the Arts has been decked in plaid, tie dye, sequins, beads, fine embroidery, and faux fur. From February 3 through April 15, 2018, the Wex presents All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion, the first “full-dress” retrospective of the designer’s exuberantly styled and deliriously embellished fashion work from the 1990s.

In a single decade—from 1989 to 1999—Oldham blazed through the New York fashion world, reshaping the runway landscape with brilliant garments inspired by everything from Persian carpets to thrift store finds. His ingenuity with fashion ultimately led to an ever more expansive studio practice encompassing furniture design, book publishing, filmmaking, photography, and the production of DIY craft kits for children and adults.

Featuring more than 70 ensembles, All of Everything draws extensively from the Todd Oldham Studio archives, a portion of which was recently donated to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum. The exhibition was curated by Kate Irvin, Curator, Costume and Textiles at the RISD Museum; the Wex is the only other venue for the show, where it is being overseen by Megan Cavanaugh, Director of Exhibitions Management.

Wex director Sherri Geldin notes, “Todd Oldham’s 10 years in the fashion world was marked by bold imagination, irreverent wit, and a near promiscuous delight in upending traditional fashion decorum and dictates. Viewers will be amazed by the sheer audacity of Oldham’s materials, ornamentation, and ‘cheeky’ chic, while at the same time awed by the designer’s exquisite mastery of intricate fabrication and detail.”

The respective installations at RISD and the Wex were designed by Oldham, who took his inspiration from French formal gardens. He worked closely with the curator to create fresh looks for the show by uniting garments from multiple collections. As a complement to his styles of the past, Oldham also collaborated with RISD students on a bright new ensemble for the exhibition.

“The show’s title, All of Everything, is a play on Gertrude Stein’s phrase ‘and then there is using everything,’” Irvin says. “Todd’s creations resonate with thought, feeling, and a profound commitment to fully exploring potential and possibilities. Novelty in Todd’s universe has indeed meant ‘using everything,’ all of one’s resources and all of one’s heart to create feats of imagination and technique that defy boundaries and challenge past definitions of fashion and its reach within the creative community.”

Oldham’s clothing incorporates materials as simple as pipe cleaners and safety pins and details as sumptuous as hand knit work, Swarovski crystal encrusting, and beaded embroidery from a 400-year-old workshop in India that specialized in traditional wedding saris. His appreciation for the labor involved in each creation kept Oldham from holding sample sales as most designers do, resulting in an especially rich storehouse of pieces to cull from for this exhibition.

All of Everything opens with footage of several of Oldham’s runway shows; he was among the first to work with African American models Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell on the catwalk, as well as rising supermodels Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, and Christy Turlington. The exhibition also features an array of Oldham-designed accessories and buttons and a selection of paper collage works—another outlet for his obsession with vibrant shades and dense patterns.

In all, the exhibition offers an immersive, wonderfully fun opportunity to reflect on the talents of one of the most influential and uniquely versatile designers working today.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1961, Todd Oldham grew up wearing handmade clothes from his grandmother, who taught him to sew. Starting his career with a $100 loan from his parents to buy cotton jersey—which Oldham used to create pieces he sold to Neiman Marcus—Oldham eventually launched his first clothing line in 1989. By 1991, he was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent.

In addition to designing for his own line, Oldham has consulted for the house of Escada, worked with the fashion retailer Old Navy, designed furniture for La-Z Boy, and taken on hotel design with the Hotel of South Beach. He’s written and edited more than 22 books, producing monographs on artists including John Waters, Wayne White, and Charley Harper. Current projects include the Hand Made Modern line of craft supplies in collaboration with Target, and Kid Made Modern, the children’s craft kit company Oldham cofounded with partner Tony Longoria, which has since expanded into children’s high-end clothing.

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