All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion
Designer Todd Oldham burst onto the New York fashion landscape in 1989 and blazed a spirited trail throughout the next decade with his scrupulously constructed garments, featuring extravagant embellishments and raucous color combinations. All of Everything is the first major exhibition to focus on the exuberant style and playful aesthetic of Oldham’s runway opus of the 1990s. “We were always throwing curve balls,” Oldham recalls. “I felt I had something to say and it was meaningful and had duality and juxtaposition.” Since then, the multi-talented creator has mastered nearly every element of design—from furniture to film—and his innovative, bricolage approach earned him an honorary doctorate degree from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2014.
Drawn from the Todd Oldham Studio archives, a substantial portion of which was recently donated to the RISD Museum, All of Everything features more than 65 full ensembles—from Oldham’s Swarovski crystal-encrusted feats of craftsmanship to his Pantone non-repeating print designs. Carefully considered details, such as embroidered motifs applied at a 400-year-old handicraft workshop in India, illustrate the designer’s deep interest in all aspects of textile development and the preservation of artisan industries. Oldham’s intensive design process is further revealed through his original artwork, while projections of recently discovered runway video footage activate the gallery space and illustrate the full creative endeavor of his fashion shows—which were among the first to feature African-American and ingénue talents such as Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Tyra Banks, among many others.
Support for All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion is provided in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional generous support is provided by The Coby Foundation, Carol Nulman, and American Modern Books.
From 1989 to 1999, American designer Todd Oldham (b. 1961) blazed through New York’s fashion landscape, producing meticulous, extravagantly embellished ensembles that were paraded down the runway by budding supermodels. All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion showcases a stunning array of pieces from this raucous, playful opus.
Oldham’s approach to design is well described by writer Gertrude Stein’s phrase “and then there is using everything.” He draws meaningful inspiration from everything around him: the sewing skills taught to him by his mother and grandmother; memories of the bazaars in Tehran, where he lived as a teenager; thrift-store finds; vintage catalogue illustrations; narratives from Three Stooges episodes. Equally important, Oldham has tested the limits of technology and craft. His fixation on novelty has led him to embrace and explore traditional techniques that were starting to fade as fast fashion gained a foothold in the 1990s. The resulting garments are feats of imagination and technique that continue to defy boundaries and challenge definitions of propriety and excess.
Oldham served as the designer for this exhibition, and his voice is presented in the label texts. Arranged in the style of a formal French garden, the installation highlights ideas and techniques rather than strict chronology. The majority of the pieces on view come from Oldham’s archives or from a large group of garments recently donated to the RISD Museum by the Todd Oldham Studio.