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The Debut of DAM’s Style Guru

The Denver Art Museum's official fashion curator unveils her first show.

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High art isn’t all paint and marble and bronze. And if you think it is, Florence Müller, freshly arrived from France to serve as the Denver Art Museum’s textile art and fashion curator, wants to change your attitude. She gets her first chance this month with the debut of Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s. Müller spent 15 years at a venerable fashion museum inside the Louvre in Paris, first as a curator and then as director. She struck out on her own in the mid-1990s, writing books, consulting for Louis Vuitton, Céline, and Gucci, and coordinating traveling exhibits such as the 2012 Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the DAM. Shock Wave documents the rise of Japanese designers, who presented women as something other than toned bodies in sexy clothing. For example, Rei Kawakubo’s 1997 “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” collection padded specific sections—the upper back, a single hip, the stomach—to exaggerate the proportions of a woman’s body and question social norms. “Why do we need to look at women as dolls?” Müller asks. If questioning convention isn’t the basis of art, we don’t know what is.

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