It’s amazing to know that some of the world’s greatest fashion collections are just down the road from my house. Kent State University Museum is filled with some of the most grandiose garments ever made. It was easy for me to overlook this world-famous museum, which rivals Victoria & Albert Museum in London, tucked away in an Akron suburb so I decided to take a second look.
I’ve been to the Kent State University Museum once before. I was in middle school and my best friend’s dad, who is a fashion designer, took us to see one of his garments. I remember being filled with excitement and thinking, “I want to do that one day.” Even though my life has taken a different path, I still have a love and an appreciation for fashion design. Some people think that fashion design is just making clothes but it’s more of an art form. Fashion greats like Alexander McQueen have popularized the couture fashion as an art movement.
It is a mistake to think the fashion industry isn’t diverse. Although there could be more recognition for multicultural designers, there are some African-American designers making a name for themselves in the mainstream fashion industry, including Tracy Reese, Rachel Roy and Stephen Burrows.
So when I went to the museum for a second time many years later, I had a greater understanding of the passion and creativity it takes to make such fashions. Featuring five temporary exhibits and an expansive permanent collection from centuries past, this museum has just about everything. From gowns to corsets to glass sculptures and more, this museum has many pieces that tell the story of world history through art.
The museum features a donated collection of 4,000 costumes and accessories, nearly 1,000 pieces of decorative art and a 5,000 volume reference library from designers Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rodgers. The exhibit “RESIST: A World of Resist Dye Techniques” was a favorite of mine. This exhibit featured chemical, mechanical and ikat techniques of dying fabrics to create patterns. Although most of us are familiar with tie-dye from the 60s and 70s, these different dying techniques have been around for centuries. Nigeria, Japan, India and Indonesia are just some of the many countries with histories of resist dyeing. The “Fandemonium” exhibit was also a fun collection which featured an array of hand-painted fans from the eighteenth century and art deco pieces from the twentieth century.
Walking through the museum this time was a completely different experience. It was great to see how these designs and art pieces have influenced today’s African-American designers. KSU fashion and merchandising students take advantage of this museum and you can too. Definitely make this a stop on your next weekend getaway and while you're there check out other fun attractions around Kent.